The Olympic stadium of Barcelona on Montjuic, used by Espanyol

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

With this large stadium, Spain bid for two summer Olympics and was picked up once. In the 1920s an Olympic sized stadium was already in place in Montjuic (“mountain of the Jews”), the residential area of Barcelona that was once dominated by Jewish traders. But Berlin won the race and hosted the infamous 1936 Olympics, used by the Nazis to portray the image of a Germany on the march and the supposed superiority of the Arian race.

It took almost sixty years for Barcelona to get another chance, until it hosted a spectacular edition of the games in 1992. Meanwhile, the stadium hosted numerous football cup finals and important games, until going into a state of decay. The new arena built in the ’80s only keeps the outside entrance in place, while the stands were completely rebuilt to host over 50.000 people, even over 60.000 during the Olympics. It was here that the opening and closing ceremony was held.

However, the Olympic stadium is eclipsed by the Nou Camp, the home of FC Barcelona and the largest football arena in Europe. Local rival team Espanyol Barcelona used the Olympic stadium for almost two decades, until building a more modern stadium of its own, with covered stands. Because it has an athletic track, this stadium can also host athletic competitions like those in Olympics, but the pitch was also used for important American football events.

The stadium was given the name Lluis Companys, who was not an athlete, but a local left wing politician who was head of the separatist government of Catalonia before the Spanish civil war. Companys was a lawyer very active in the socialist movement, including violent strikes, which got him several arrests and long term sentences. As leader of the separatist province, Companys governed in an alliance that included communists and anarchists but strictly followed the orders from Moscow, eliminating from power those communists who were sympathetic to Trotsky or criticizing Stalin. When the right wing (which included fascists, nationalists and conservatives) prevailed in the civil war, Lluis Companys was trialled for his part in separating Catalonia from Spain and for his connection with the communists. The dictatorial regime of general Franco condemned Companys and executed him. With the new local patriotism reborn in Catalonia after joining the EU, the name of Companys was honored with monuments as a victim of the fascist dictatorship.

The Olympic stadium is only one of the objectives that marked a rebirth of Barcelona’s architecture with the occasion of the sporting event in 1992. These included the Olympic Ring, a high abstract white monument visible from many points of the city, an Olympic village, an indoor sports facility (Palau Sant Jordi), a harbor as well as a total rediscovery of the beach area, which became the most desired residential area.

The Olympic stadium is also used for concerts, with the greatest names in show-business giving impressive performances here, including: Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Metallica, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Sting,

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