’92 Olympics ‘completely revitalized’ Barcelona

Visitors in June of 2012 walk through a portion of the former Olympic grounds in Barcelona, with Palau Sant Jordi — now an events venue — seen on the left, where the U.S.’s Dream Team first played in the ’92 Olympic Games.

By Erik Franco

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Serving as host to the 1992 Olympics Barcelona underwent a transformation that completely resuscitated the city, not just for the Games’ brief stay but long after the Olympics left. 

“The Olympics totally transformed the city,” said Luke Moreland, Academic and Cultural Activities Services Coordinator at ISA Barcelona. “It completely revitalized Barcelona; a lot of these neighborhoods were slums before the Olympics.”

In addition to repurposing athletic housing facilities as residential housing, the ’92 Games gave Barcelona a beach. Barcelona’s beaches, all artificial, never existed before the Olympics.

“Barcelona before 1992 was quite a poor city. There were a lot of areas that were forgotten — one of the areas for example was the sea side,” said Eduard Boet, communications director at TV3, Catalonia’s most-watched TV network. “For ages no one went to the sea because it was full of industry.”

The ’92 Games gave impetus — and the budget (around $7 billion in 1992 dollars) — to reshape Barcelona’s shore, Boet said. 20 years later, the effects seen in Barcelona after hosting the ’92 Games haven’t been forgotten. 

“The Olympics, that was the excuse to rebuild all that part of the city, to rediscover the sea side. And Because we had the money to do the Olympics and an excuse to rebuild all that sea side, once the Olympics left, Barceloneans (reused) all that space,” Boet said.

Along with gaining a beach after the Olympics left, one of its stadiums, Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, is now used as a concert venue. During the ’60s under Franco’s rule the area was a refugee camp.

Former site of a refugee camp during the ’60s, Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys is now used as a concert venue and for cultural and government events.

The Barcelona Olympic facilities are now home to eight museums, one of which, Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport, prominently promotes its Facebook page where upcoming events information can be found.

An over six feet tall cut-out promoting its Facebook page is the first thing visitors see when entering Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport, telling visitors in Catalan (Barcelona’s native language) to “like us on Facebook.”

A Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport tour guide, Gustavo Coronal, said the international tourism destination Barcelona is today owes it all to the Olympics.

“We used to have tourism just in the summer, now we have tourism every minute,” Boet said, echoing Coronal and others. “The Olympics was the best excuse to give Barcelona a huge lift and completely transform the city — more modern, comfortable and sustainable too,” he added.

“Barcelona wouldn’t be what it is today without the (’92) Olympic Games,” Coronal said.

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