Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympics and is generally held to be the prime example of using the Games to create a lasting legacy for the city. I was fortunate to take a short holiday there recently so I was able to check it out.
The Olympic Park was constructed in the Montjuic area of the city, a big hill on the west side comprising mostly parkland and formal gardens. The area has a grisly history, having been the Jewish quarter of the city and site of Franco’s concentration camps after the Spanish Civil War. The main Olympic stadium was constructed behind the façade of a stadium built for the “people’s games” in the 1930s which never took place because of the Civil War. It is an impressive venue with numerous sports facilities on the site and a great Olympic museum, all set in a fabulous green space. The area is accessible by bus, metro, a funicular railway or, for the more adventurous, by cable car from the port area of the city. It was fairly quiet when I was there but a big screen advertised all sorts of activities from Monster Truck shows to concerts by artists such Elton John, Greenday and Deep Purple. The stadium is also home to Barcelona’s other soccer team, Espanol. It is a good example of sympathetic development of green space and effective use of the facilities.
The other story is on the east side of the city, the Port Olympic area where the sailing took place and where the Olympic Village was constructed in a formerly run down area between the city and the sea. This has led to a significant development to add the amenities of a seaside resort to the formidable art, and cultural heritage of the city. The former village is now home to thousands of people enjoying seaside apartments and the new beaches attract tourists and locals alike. Water sports are popular and a giant marina plays host to some very expensive looking marine hardware.
Although this is clearly a legacy success story that I hope London is able to emulate, Barcelona also has its dark side. Spain has fared badly in the recession and this fine city has had its share of problems. Numerous retail outlets are closed down and boarded up, the city is covered in graffiti, tourists are constantly pestered by beggars and the threat of crime is very obvious. The challenge for London is to do at least as well as this in the expectation that economic regeneration can be achieved as we emerge from the current recession.