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Barcelona and Revisiting Main Site of the 1992 Summer Olympics

June 24th, 2017 · No Comments · Barcelona, NBA, Olympics, Spain, Sports Journalism

I first traveled to Barcelona in the summer of 1992 to help cover the Summer Olympics for Gannett News Service.

I was very impressed with the place. It had charm. It had class. It organized a very fine Olympics. It seemed like a city people would want to see, if they knew about it.

And such was the success of the 1992 Olympics — as an event, not necessarily the competition — that Barcelona pushed its way into the ranks of “world’s great cities”, a status the Spanish metropolis has solidified, since then.

Rest assured, it was not the sports that made 1992 a memorable Summer Olympics.

It was the city that hosted them.

I remember exactly one sports event from 1992. And I may be getting soft in the head, but I can usually conjure several big moments when I reflect on any of the 14 Olympics I have seen. Way more than one.

And which one?

The appearance of the U.S. basketball Dream Team.

The U.S. lost badly to the Soviet Union in the 1988 basketball semifinals, and it was enough for USA Basketball to give up its historic practice of sending a college all-star team to the Olympics.

For 1992, the Big Guys went. NBA stars, come on down.

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone …

They made quite a ruckus. By then, several European countries had their own basketball leagues, and the idea of all those American stars being on the same team … well, it drew a lot of attention as they destroyed the competition.

I remember that clearly.

The rest …

Oh, wait. I have one more.

Pocket Hercules. The Turkish weightlifter Naim Suleymanoglu. I went to the arena when he was going for a gold medal, and the little guy lifted some ridiculous amount of weight … so there was that, too.

I will be honest here, and tell you I have checked internet sources to pad out what happened in 1992. (Hey, it was 25 years ago!) It was not a particularly memorable 16 days, for the athletes. I had to look at the medal table to see which countries did well or not so well.

But Barcelona put up a winning performance.

I have returned to Spain’s second city several times since, and yesterday I retraced the path I took to the cluster of venues near the heart of old Barcelona.

That would include the Olympic stadium, formally known as Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, where opening and closing ceremonies were held, as well as track and field. (Oh, and a memory from opening ceremonies — an archer lit the Olympic Cauldron with a flaming arrow. Oh, wait; he didn’t. He sent his arrow far over the audience, and technicians inside the stadium lit the flame, we found out years later.)

It was quite a slog, from the media center down by the Plaza Espanya to the big stadium up the hill. Several hundred feet and several hundred steps. I could make it in 15 minutes or so, and would show up at the stadium quite winded.

I made that climb again yesterday, this time with the aid of a few escalators and without any pressure to finish quickly. It was one of those accidents of memory that I recalled exactly how to get there. “Past the fountain, up the stairs to the art museum, circle to the right, through the park, another climb, cross the street, there you are.”

We were lucky to find the stadium open. It is rarely used for organized sports events, but it has been opened as a place where visitors can run on the track or attempt to score goals, and is known as Open Camp.

It also has lots of video games on the main concourse, as well as guided tours and all the foosball tables you could ever hope to see in one place.

(Here is what the stadium looks like now, in this photo gallery.)

It’s fun to go back and see where you worked a big event. So often, they fall to pieces or are ignored. Not at Barcelona; they did that right, too.




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