Why Do All Hosts Want to Copy Barcelona?
Nearly every prospective host of the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup claim they are going to transform their cities like Barcelona did for the 1992 Olympics. What was so special about Barcelona? And is it replicable elsewhere?
Barcelona, unlike most hosts, was so successful in making the most out of hosting a major sporting event that it was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal (which is normally awarded to individuals) for its “commitment to urbanism” and mix of “eye-catching landmark projects, small scale improvements to plazas and street corners and the team work between politicians and urbanists”
- There are few other examples of event-driven revitalization in a developing or semi-developing context
- Pre -1992 Olympics, Barcelona was an industrial city in decline and deep depression in the 1980s
- Through the 1992 Olympics, the city underwent rapid transformation from to a world-class city and tourist destination a decade later
Why was Barcelona so successful?
- They had a unique situation, and an impressive result that serves as a benchmark of well-planned event-generated revitalization
- Calavita and Ferrer attributed Barcelona’s success to “skilled political entrepreneurship and creative planning”together with the “money, energy and spirit of cooperation spurred by the Olympic Games of 1992.”
- Others, including Maya, emphasize the unique political situation and unusually powerful neighborhood associations mobilized after the fall of the Franco dictatorship, claiming that these organizations exerted significant political pressure and effectively focused municipal and regional governments on quality of life enhancements, amenities and infrastructure improvements
- Barcelona 1992 had an unusual leadership type for major sports event planning: a high level of cooperation between public/private sector, inter-governmental and grassroots organizations. They had an unusually high level of civil society participation (through the post-Franco strength of neighborhood associations)
- They also had useful political and economic regulations
- They benefitted from an openness to becoming a leading city in Europe and the world
- Civil society participation
Unusually strong vision and long-term focus. They had a master plan for transforming the city that preceded bidding for the Olympics, that would have happened whether they hosted them or not.
Neighborhood associations and grassroots organizations had a jointly articulated voice and were powerful enough to negotiate effectively for their needs and long-term vision with the 1992 Games organizers.
In sum, for Barcelona 1992, the Olympics were merely one tool to meet their long term urban and economic development goals.
Source: Altringer (2005). Hosting Mega-events: the Road to the FIFA World Cup 2010. WITS University, October 31, 2005.