Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya, is reputed to be one of the most enchanting cities in Europe. It provides a fabulous array of tourist attractions, museums, cathedrals and beaches. The city has a superb public transportation system with a broad network of metro lines, buses and trains connected to regional and international train and air services.
The City has some major sporting attractions including the mighty FC Barcelona’s gigantic football stadium and the 1992 Olympic Stadium.
Barcelona has prospered since the early 1990s, when preparations for the Olympic Games turned it into modernity, and today, it remains well in the arena of other Spanish cities in terms of comfort, stability and cultural activity.
Impact of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics
The impact of the city’s appointment as Olympic host city was clear: unemployment experienced a dramatic fall, the housing market came back to life and, of course, the construction industry underwent a boom.
Brunet (2005) reported that the labor market of Barcelona and its hinterland benefited significantly to the holding of the Olympic Games. The rate of unemployment decreased considerably from an all-time high of 127,774, in November 1986 to as low as 60,885, by July 1992, while the Olympic Games were held. Records also also show that between October 1986 and August 1992, Barcelona’s general unemployment rate fell from 18.4% to 9.6%, while the Spanish numbers were 20.9% and 15.5%, respectively. In the initial phase, Olympic-based activity produced annual occupation rates of an additional 35,309 persons, on the average (Brunet 2005).
It was likewise reported that investments in infrastructure and facilities brought to additional permanent employment for an estimated 20,019 people. Thus, the average annual effect over the 1987-1993 period of Barcelona’92 was employment for some 59,328 persons. We can therefore conclude that at least 88.7% of the decrease in unemployment recorded in Barcelona between November 1986 and July 1992 was due mainly to the Games.
Considerably, after the Games, unemployment in Barcelona increased by 21,000 persons, a figure approximately equal to the annual employment provided by the Olympic Games of 1992. The investment generated by the Games offered a soft mattress, reducing the fall in a context of general depression.
Barcelona’s economy showed resistant to the extensive repression and, after 1994, once again started to create employment. Until 1993, at least 41,450 new jobs were created, illustrating a halving of the unemployment figures. For 1993 and 1994, the figures in unemployment rose by 18,000 persons but after 1995, unemployment fell due to some 20,230 permanent jobs coming from Olympic investment.
In the construction sector, meanwhile, there was a reported increase in the consumption of cement between 1986 and 1992. House building also swollen, in spite of the fact that as a city, Barcelona’s building potential had already been partially exploited.
In relation to other Olympic Games, historically, the Barcelona Games were surpassing in terms of income for the Organising Committee derived from the investment in facilities and infrastructure.
To facilitate the processing of investments during the Games, the central Spanish government and Barcelona City Hall instituted the Barcelona Holding Olímpic, S.A. (HOLSA). It was HOLSA who constructed the main Olympic facilities, the bulk of the 78 km of new road infrastructure and the Olympic Village.
Primarily, the Olympic Games in Barcelona was aimed at generating construction of various infrastructures and facilities which will benefit the city even beyond the holding of the event. There was a vast construction of roads and transport infrastructure services, housing and business offcies, telecommunications, hotels and sports facilities.
A total of 61.5% of Olympic financing was appropriated for building work. This shows an important feature of the Barcelona’92: its structuring influence on the city.
The ascend of the urban conversion springing from the Games was massive. There was the 15% increase in new roads over those existing in 1986. There were also new sewage systems, new green areas with the planting of additinal trees and shrubs and improved beaches. Brunet (2005) also reported that if there’s one outstanding feature of the Games, it was the regional decentralisation where other investments also took plave in other cities aside from Barcelona.
The immediate impact was experienced all over the region. Construction of sports facilities accounted for only 9.1% of the total investment during the Games. This small percentage reflects the great volume of additional indirect investment infused by the impetus of the Games.
The private sector actually contributed 36.8% of the Olympic building work and one-third of this was financed with foreign capital. Private investment was centered on housing, hotels and business Centres. The exalted level of private investment was influenced by expectations of improvement in the city’s attractiveness (Brunet, 1992).
Jones (1990) believes that every game needs public resources which, in turn, produce additional public resources. The assumption is that if the Games are well supported by the public sector, the public administration will itself profit far in surplus of the cost of the investment. The objective was then to downgrade public funding for organisational costs and to focus it towards construction of infrastructure and facilities.
As Turco & Kelsey (1992) reported, public funding may increase to levels above those originally predicted or promised. However, the bigger the public investment, the bigger the private investment which will follow, and the bigger the legacy, the more activity and more employment will be generated. The financial balance sets out all the Olympic-related public administration costs and the income generated by the Games, both directly and indirectly. Public infrastructure costs were high during between 1986 to 1992, however, it is interesting to note that public administration income also rose due mainly to taxable Olympic activities.
After the Olympic Games, public Olympic-related spending was restricted to the maintenance of the so-called Legacy, yet income coming from greater private capital and economic activity generated by the Games had risen tremendously. Even by 2004 then, public investment in the Games had received generous returns.
It is astounding to find that this extensive trend continues. The year 1993 was considered worse than 1992 in terms on employment rate. Since then, new growth records on all indicators such as employment, investment, income, attractiveness, etc. were reported as related by Brunet (2005). Not only did Barcelona respond well to the Games, it succeeded in keeping the growth generated, on a scale never seen before.
Between 1986 and 2000, hotel reservations and occupancy in Barcelona increased threefold. in connection with this, the number of foreign visitors visiting the city doubled, numbering a total of 3.5 million visitors per year.
In comparison with the other host cities of the Olympic Games over the last 12 years like Seoul, Atlanta and Sydney, Barcelona’s results are considered outstanding. In some areas, they are truly remarkable, as for example, in the figures on hotel capacity and the number of foreign visitors. Barcelona’s answer to the Olympic impetus has been more vehement and maintained than that of the other host cities. This has made Barcelona’92 a model in so far as impact is concerned. This is where Barcelona’s performance was outstanding: in its extraordinary and sustained capacity to ride the Olympic wave.
The immediate impact of the Olympic Games was highly celebrated. However, what was truly surprising was the impact and scale of the permanent Olympic Legacy, and the continuation of this impact over the 1992- 2002 period. The “Barcelona Olympic Impact Model” is evident in investment in infrastructure, both in terms of quantity and quality. However, this impact model postulates a certain organisational model for the Games and also involves urban transformation of the city.
The model is founded on maximisation of investment, attraction of further investment and temporal concentration. Given the scope of urban transformation undertaken, continued investment is essential which is what exactly what happened in Barcelona.
Barcelona has been exceptionally successful in harnessing the Olympic impetus and benefiting from the investment made, and this had facilitated change. The resources allocated to urban infrastructure led to temporary employment in the necessary construction work, followed by permanent employment in operation of this infrastructure. Both led to extended economic activity, although not all of it was concentrated in the city itself. The capital invested and the increased economic activity led to increased wealth, wellbeing, and social cohesion and made the city more attractive.
Wang (1993) showed a database has been generated to illustrate the Olympic impact of various host cities in terms of organisation, investment and resulting economic impact. Barcelona’s performance again stands out. The Olympic investments and their economic impact are without comparison in the other host cities. Reports reveal that only Tokyo reached half the volume of the investment generated in Barcelona. Investment was also meaningful in Seoul; however, Olympic investments in Atlanta and Sydney were very limited. The projections for Athens and Beijing include major investment and impact, more along the lines of Barcelona.
The investments are the key element within the economic resources mobilised by Barcelona’92, and were crucial in the economic impact of the Games, the city’s transformation and the subsequent increase in economic activity, income and wellbeing. The investments explain a great part of Barcelona’92’s supreme success and were notable both in terms of the characteristic of the infrastructure and scale of funding (10,660 million Euro). They constitute the Olympic Legacy which underpinned much of Barcelona’s economic and social boom in the 1990s.
Not only were the investments central to the original Olympic impetus, they were also important in harmonising the impact and empowering continuation of the urban transformation and strategic strengthening process. To complete our intent of Barcelona’s urban transformation process up to and beyond 2004, it is important that we must include the inner-city renovation projects that are taking place in various parts of the city such as Ciutat Vella, Eixample, Gràcia, Nou Barris, among others..
The city‘s capability to extend the Olympic impact has permitted it to offset obstructions such as arguments between different public administration bodies, and the delay in providing certain infrastructure, such as the high-speed train. It has also enabled it to avoid submerging in a sea of uncertainty with regard to the seafront and urban renewal programme associated with the Forum 2004. And, although it does have undeniable disadvantages (it is neither a state capital nor headquarters for many multinationals, and suffers from shortcomings in public transport, language training, worker mobility and available development land, etc.), Barcelona continues to attract investment and enterprise.
The use of the term “model” has become widespread and seems to have been accepted. In analytical terms, a model is an organised set of forms and procedures, shorn of accessories . However, in everyday usage, “model” includes the extra content, in this case the objectives and results. According to one estimate, the Olympics will tack on an additional $6.5 billion – about 1.6% of GDP – to Australia’s GDP over the 1994-2006 period. Over 35,000 people have worked on Olympic related construction sites.
There was so much construction and renovation that for the four year run up to the big event, tourists were not able to see many of the famous monuments. It could have been the perfect opportunity for Barcelona to select and promote environmentally friendly urban planning. Here we analyse the situation leading up to the occasion, exploring the reasons why this was not to be. We go on to look at how the community has succeeded in demanding that environmental issues be taken on board actively in city planning policy in the light of Local Agenda 21.
We see how cooperation between unions, residents associations, Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and the council have managed to approach and tackle serious environmental issues in a kind of partnership which could serve as an example for future challenges towards a new democratic model of active participation.
One major reason for such a lack of consideration of environmental problems can be credited to the fact that in the Barcelona Olympics construction projects were the result of deals being achieved between public figures and large private investors. Due to the economic squeeze experienced by Spanish councils in the pre-Olympic era, a massive operation like the Games could only be made possible by the joining together of forces of the big private investors and the public administrative bodies. In fact this partnership between private and public entities was recognised by the mayor at the time and called ‘urbanismo concertado’.
The idea was to carry out small individual planning projects rather than one integral city plan, making up a kind of patchwork quilt of construction projects by means of public and private partners working together. These were rarely new plans. Much of the construction, particularly on the sea front (with the idea of cleaning up the graveyard left by old industry which had either closed down or relocated) and the city ring roads, with motorway proportions, had been designed in the sixties and seventies, during Franco’s time. The two main ring roads for example had been designed by Porcioles, the mayor of Barcelona from 1957-73.
The facelift given to the maritime façade now known as the Villa Olimpica is a huge success, probably accounting for one of the most popular weekend haunts for thousands of Barcelona’s citizens. It is though a typical example of buildings which were built for the Olympic Games, in that the emphasis on design is on the external image. While the outside of the new buildings is impressive, the internal layout has failed to meet present day ecofriendly requirements.
For example, new flats were built with the intention of eliminating the unsightly rubbish bins kept on the street by replacing them with internal pneumatic suction shoots. These shoots do not separate waste to enable recycling and/or reuse of domestic waste. Indeed it can be said that there was no ecologically aware waste programme in operation before 1992 (except in the case of glass bottle banks) unlike in several other European countries.
Many of the new buildings have huge proportions. The so-called Olympic ‘Village’ has buildings 34 floors high and it even towers over the cathedral some way away. Impressive it may be, in keeping, it is not. The same can be said for the clinical, minimalistic design of some squares and other public places, where the elderly can be seen sitting on large, modern slabs of marble which were back lit by lights shining through glass tiles, broken within days and never repaired.
Facilities and infrastructure constitute part of the olympic legacy, the benefits of which continue after the Games, and were therefore to be maximised. The Games continue to have an impact. a) In general terms, as an organisational model – the memory of the excellent organisational and sporting results lives on; and as a model of urban transformation; b) Locally, in the present effects of the Olympic investments, in the scale of the Olympic Legacy and the far-reaching impacts of the city’s improved strategic positioning. c) Herein lies our interest in studying the investment in infrastructure and facilities generated by the Barcelona Games, the city’s harnessing of the Olympic legacy, and the ongoing investment and urban renewal process.
The Barcelona rondes or ring-roads, the re-opening of the city to its seafront via construction of the Olympic Village, the creation of a range of new urban sub-centres and the Olympic facilities at Montjuïc, the Diagonal and Vall d’Hebron, were the main Barcelona building projects
Thanks to the Olympic Games, Barcelona is now a different city. The organisation was optimum, fostering massive investment in infrastructure. Thanks to correct use of the Olympic Legacy, increased capital and improved attractiveness, the urban development process has continued long after 1992. The organisation, the investment, the economic and social impact, the urban transformation, the efficient use of the Olympic Legacy (Figure 8) were all highly positive.
This is why we refer to the “Barcelona model” for organisation of mega events, economic impact and urban transformation. The objective was quality, the implementation excellent, both in the preparatory and follow-up phase. Of equal importance however, was the city’s capacity to harness the Olympic impetus.
Comparison with other Games and cities over the 1964-2008 period, shows that Barcelona was most successful in harnessing the Olympic impetus and its impact.
The continued investment in infrastructure and development driven by such events as the Forum, and development of the Poblenou district into a high-added value information and technology area, is the key to the city’s maintaining its 6th position among European cities . The city’s achievements from 1986 to 1992 and again after 1992, have been enormous. Yet the challenges facing it now and in the future are similarly daunting. The investment in urban transformation must go on. European integration and globalisation are factors which favour Barcelona, as long as the city maintains the Olympic spirit, and continues to implement the “Barcelona model”.
The deepest impacts of the Olympic investments are in the long-term. Without a doubt, the key to the good work and success of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is in the strength of the goal of projection and transformation of the city.
The objectives of Barcelona’92 were very clear (sporting and organisational excellence and the urban transformation of the city) and so were the procedures (institutional unity, mixed public-private funding, etc.). And since the results of this “Barcelona model” were positive, then the term “model” is often used in the sense of being exemplary for other cities organising similar events. It seems that it did serve as a model in this sense for Sydney, and that it will also do so for Athens and, possibly Beijing as well. Barcelona has then become a model for other Olympic Games and cities.
The new public and private capital and the permanent employment generated by the Olympic investments constitute the city’s Olympic Legacy; a legacy which included the city’s urban transformation, changed economic structure, increased capitalisation, increased service sector activity, heightened international role, attractiveness, centrality, productivity and competitiveness.
Barcelona has been outstandingly successful in strengthening and maintaining the Olympic impetus, thus increasing its own level of economic activity and income, improving its quality of life and social cohesion, and advancing strategically.
Business confidence in Barcelona, as reflected by the enthusiasm of foreign companies to establish there (a combination of attractiveness, availability of services, workers, market, and competitiveness) enhanced notably in the aftermath of the Games. In 1990, Barcelona occupied 11th position; by 1993, it had risen to 10th, and by 2001 it was in 6th position.
After the medals have been handed out, the podiums taken down, and life returns to normal, will the economy then slow? From the studies mentioned, is seems as though the average performance of host countries’ economies has not been as robust as prior to the Olympics when the bulk of construction expenditure was being undertaken.
The Olympics may somehow drain the country’s funds with the increasing number of constructions and developments, but in the long run, the legacy of the Olympics will still be enjoyed even after the major event has folded up. The stadiums and gymnasiums will become regular sports centres which the residents may continue enjoy. The place will remain a wonderful place for tourists to visit long after the Games are through.
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