If there is something clear about the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, it is that they represented a before and after for the image of Spain and the Catalan capital. As if they were a turning point. Jordi Canal, author of the book July 25, 1992. Around the world from Spain (Taurus), points out: “Spain falls in love with the world with the Games and the world considers that Spain can no longer be seen with the old clichés.” A few days before the beginning of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Canal went to the EL PAÍS newsroom to commemorate this event together with the journalist of the daily AS Carmen Colino and the historian José-Carlos Mainer. The meeting was broadcast exclusively for the newspaper’s subscribers within the cycle The Spain of the 20th century in 7 days.
The 1992 Games were the largest sporting event held in Spain to date, and its success transcended competition. “They represented the culmination of a decade,” says Canal. “They are a great showcase of what Spain has changed since the Transition.” On the one hand, they altered the face of Barcelona, which embellished its streets, created pavilions and even an access to the beach for the capital, until then almost non-existent. On the other hand, perhaps in a less visible way, they intervened on the political scene. As Canal explains during the conversation, the context of the event “coincides with the State of the autonomies, the success of the Generalitat and the pujolismo [en referencia al triunfo de Jordi Pujol, que presidió el Govern durante 23 años]. It was here that the nationalization project in Catalonia began ”. The result, however, was so positive that the then president of the Generalitat did not like it, who feared that the nationalization process in Catalonia would be overshadowed by Spanishization and pride in the success achieved, as Canal affirms.
Considered by many to be the best in history, the Barcelona Games were an example of diversity and coexistence. To illustrate, the work of Luis Bassat, the great publicist who understood the competition as a great advertisement that would be televised. “The diversity of Spain blends very well in harmony: from human castles to flamenco, passing through the rumba of Peret and Los Manolos, and a lot of classical music,” recalls Canal. In essence, “a symbolism of the moment in Spain, which is turning towards the democratization-state of the autonomies”.
For José-Carlos Mainer, the meaning of the competition went much further. “The structure modifies all subsequent Olympic Games. And that Barcelona supported the representation of Spain was something key that had not happened since the postwar period ”, he points out. It was a moment of international significance for the city. And although there was a small demonstration of Freedom for Catalonia [libertad para Cataluña] minutes before the celebration, in short, everything worked.
“As if we had made the perfect script,” said AS journalist Carmen Colino. “All went well. Even the medals, ”he said, because Spain was the sixth country that won the most awards. The rest of the story, that of the celebration and scenography, the Kobi mascot and the concerts, remain forever in the fragility of memory, although sometimes it does not correspond to the story. Because, for example, and despite the belief of many, the soprano Montserrat Caballé never sang with Freddie Mercury at the inauguration — it was in 1987—. Canal also expressed it in his book: “Sometimes memory has those things.”