The Olympic city

Just after nightfall on the evening of 25th July 1992, a flaming arrow left its wake in the sky over Barcelona. Hundreds of millions of viewers all over the world held their breath for an instant until it arrived at its target and lit the flame over the Montjuic Olympic Stadium. This moment marked, not only the inauguration of the XXV Olympic Games but also a new Barcelona, lovingly reconstructed for the occasion. Barcelona’s Olympic modernization consists, schematically, of the general renovation of the city, the recuperation of its seaboard, the radical transformation of four areas ( classified as “Olympic” ) located at the four corners of the city, and the creation of the new Rondes, or ring roads, which circumvent the city, reorganize the traffic and redefine hitherto established patterns.

The Olympic area, par excellence, is situated at Montjuic, the scenario of the major sporting competitions of the 1992 Games. The mountain of Montjuic, which overlooks the port, is the city’s traditional, natural defense, as is apparent from the fort that stands at the top. In 1929, at the time of the International Exhibition, the mountain underwent a degree of development which left in its wake a great deal of classical architecture ( with exceptions such as the visionary German pavilion built by Mies van Rohe ), winding avenues, and romantic gardens. In 1992, this development was completed with the building of the Olympic ring.

This area, designed by the architects Correa and Mila, assembles the principal Olympic installations around an esplanade of classic shape and symmetry. The most important element is the Olympic stadium itself, built by the same architects, together with the Italian Gregotti, based on an already existent construction whose exterior was left intact, whereas the interior was totally refurbished. Next to the stadium stands the Palau Sant Jordi, an indoor sports arena designed by the Japanese Arata Isozaki, whose roof vaguely left in its wake a great deal of classical architecture ( with exceptions such as the visionary German pavilion built by Mies van Rohe ), winding avenues and romantic gardens. In 1992, this development was completed with the building of the Olympic ring. This area, designed by the architects Correa and Mila, assembles the principal Olympic installations around an esplanade of classic shape and symmetry.

The most important element is the Olympic stadium itself, built by the same architects, together with the Italian Gregotti, based on an already existent construction whose exterior was left intact, whereas the interior was totally refurbished. Next to the stadium stands the Palau Sant Jordi, an indoor sports arena designed by the Japanese Arata Isozaki, whose roof vaguely of the old, obsolete Poble Nou factories for the modern residential area of the Olympic village, accommodation for the world’s greatest athletes for three weeks and now one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods. Four kilometers of beaches, two skyscrapers, a recreational sport, a new district whose brick buildings evoke the old industrial traditions of the zone, and a park, are some of the characteristic elements of Barcelona’s second Olympic area where, perhaps, the greatest change of all has taken place.

During the summer, the beaches, accessible almost by the Underground, are packed with hundreds of thousands of citizens. The restaurants and bars of the Olympic port are among the busiest in the city all year round, and their terraces are crowded from spring until the end of the old, obsolete Poble Nou factories for the modern residential area of the Olympic village, accommodation for the world’s greatest athletes for three weeks and now one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods.

Four kilometers of beaches, two skyscrapers, a recreational sport, a new district whose brick buildings evoke the old industrial traditions of the zone, and a park, are some of the characteristic elements of Barcelona’s second Olympic area where, perhaps, the greatest change of all has taken place. During the summer, the beaches, accessible almost by the Underground, are packed with hundreds of thousands of citizens. The restaurants and bars of the Olympic port are among the busiest in the city all year round, and their terraces are crowded from spring until the end of autumn.
The quartet of Olympic areas created for the 1992 Games is completed by the Valle Hebron and Diagonal centers. Their new sports facilities are well worth visiting for the revolutionary concepts apparent in both their decorative elements and the sculpture park.

The Rondes should be mentioned as the final fruit of the Olympic transformation, as their thirty-five kilometers of ring roads have modified and lightened the heavy burden of traffic within the city.
But the “Olympic torch” is not confined to these direct interventions in the matter: it can be felt throughout the city and very particularly in the Eixample and its historic areas. It is also complemented by the works carried out under more experimental criteria at Besos to provide for the installations of Forum 2004.

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