Opening Ceremonies at Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics
In the summer of 1992 my husband and I were fortunate to be able to attend the Opening Ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The Games of the XXV Olympiad were to be played there and it is an experience we will never forget.
Barcelona is a seacoast city in the northeast area of Spain. As the capitol of Catalonia, Barcelona has long been a tourist area due to its Mediterranean climate and alluring cityscapes and countryside. Many centuries of settlement have made this city an interesting mixture of medieval areas which are cramped and crowded along with other spacious and green areas.
There is a separatist movement that has been working towards separating Catalonia from the rest of Spain and making it into an independent country. The language has its slightly different twist and their food is also distinctive.
Many artists have called this area home. Among them are Dali, Picasso, Miro and Gaudi. During our visits to Barcelona we would visit the Joan Miro Foundation and see many different buildings designed by Gaudi including those in Park Guell. His Sagrada Familia is a landmark towering over many other buildings in this cosmopolitan city.
Barcelona won the distinction of hosting these Olympic Games in 1986 and worked diligently to transform their city providing Olympic venues and preparing their city to host the onslaught of not only fine athletes from around the world who would be competing, but also the crowds of people who would perhaps be seeing their city for the first time. Many of the venues were completed a full year in advance of this spectacle. The city was shined up and was readied to put on a memorable show!
We were with a group of people who were staying on the Island of Mallorca and were flown by airplane to Barcelona in time to be hosted to a typical Catalan lunch at a restaurant called Con Travi Nou at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
After a leisurely lunch we were dropped off and began the long hike up to the Olympic Stadium. We were to follow guides waving yellow flags. There were many groups of people following different colored flags that day in addition to individuals and small family groups heading up the hill to Montjuic and the Olympic Stadium so we had to pay close attention so as not to be separated from our group.
Walking Up To Olympic Stadium
Our group was dropped off and began the long hike up to the Olympic Stadium.
While pausing to take in the scenery and do some Olympic pin trading we had to keep an eye on our guides sporting the yellow flags. We certainly did not want to be separated from our group as thousands of people were milling about most all of them making their way up to the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies. The Olympic Stadium held something like 70,000 people!
It was a very hot day in Barcelona and most of the people were all wearing shorts or at the least very comfortable clothing with good walking shoes.
This was our first Olympics to attend in person and we had no idea how much fun it was going to be trading Olympic pins with people from around the world. Most people had their Olympic pins attached to their clothing, hats, or bags that they might have been carrying. Often people would approach us wanting to trade pins. Some people spoke our language and others did not. But with a questioning look and smile while gesturing and holding out one or two of their pins while pointing to one of ours transmitted the message quite well.
Some avid Olympic fans who knew the value of certain pins were die hearted traders on a mission to increase the value of their holdings. If they spotted a desired pin that they wished to add to their collection often they would offer two or three pins in exchange for the one they wanted. Most like us were simply happy to trade ones in which we might have had duplicates for others that were different. Olympic pins not only varied according to the country but also other Olympic Games in years past. Logos for businesses worldwide were also made into Olympic pins. That turned out to be quite a sport!
Mist from fountains doing water ballets to music helped cool us off as we were mingling with the masses making their way up Montjuic on that very warm day.
Montjuic Park sits atop a rocky hill that is at a height of 173 metres in Barcelona. The building that dominates the top of the hill as one approaches it from the street level is the castle which was used by the military for many years. It now houses a military museum.
Many beautiful gardens are located at the top of Montjuic and we simply caught a glimpse of some of them as we were moving en masse towards the stadium.
There is a Spanish Village on Montjuic which is housed behind walls and shows replicas of buildings from all over Spain. Museums of many types are also in this area of the city. We were able to spend some time in the Miro Foundation on another day when we came back for one of the Olympic events - men's diving. Obviously one could spend many days on Montjuic exploring all of the many different venues but that was not our goal of this eventful day.
The many fountains continued to provide a spectacle of aquatic beauty and much appreciated mist as we kept climbing the hill.
Once atop the hill and past the castle we caught our first look at the structure that would be lit later that evening and burn as the Olympic torch throughout the summer games.
All 70,000 people entering the Olympic Stadium had to go through security which included a metal detector and all handbags were search. Many mounted police were in evidence.
Opening Ceremonies Festivities Begin!
The mayor of Barcelona, Pasqual Maragall and the president of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch welcomed everyone to the Olympics in Barcelona. King Juan Carlos I declared the XXV Olympiad games open.
Borne by six Spanish Olympic athletes and two volunteers the Olympic flag entered the stadium to much fanfare. A memorial to cities and athletes that participated in the past Olympics was completed. The XXV Olympic Games were inaugurated with the most beautiful of ceremonies.
80 musicians sounded the Olympic opening and over 800 performers dressed in colorful outfits representing flowers and birds welcomed one and all with the word of friendship Hola!
The rose is the symbol of Catalonia and these first photos show the symbolic flower.
Several seats over from where I was seated were some folks showing not only a Catalonia flag, but a Freedom for Catalonia banner. Security from both ends of the row in which we were seated approached them and coerced them into giving the banner up to them to be removed. They complied peacefully of which I was happy.
This video shows some scenery around Barcelona and part of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
Montserrat Caballe and Jose Carreras sang the Welcome while 600 dancers who were dressed in white danced the thousand-year-old sardana, the dance of Catalonia. They ended up joining hands and forming the five Olympic rings which symbolize the Olympic Games
At one point white doves were released all at once filling the stadium with the fluttering of wings and it was a thrilling sight to watch them disappear into the evening skies overhead.
Sun, Hercules and Mediterranean Sea
The red and yellow flame like costumes represented the sun and the sun is an attribute of Hercules. The legend told by this part of opening ceremonies has Hercules setting off under the protection of the sun on a journey to see the world. The blue garbed people become representative of the Mediterranean sea.
A ship sets out onto the sea but they are attacked by monsters. Victorious at last the men found a city and legend has it that city became Barcelona.
This glorious site was accompanied by music and much theatrics. At one point we were all invited to don our sun like masks and the entire audience was suddenly a part of the scenery. To this day I have kept one of those souvenir masks.
Opening Ceremony images from Olympics in BarcelonaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Land of Passion
This next bit of theatrics was thunderous as 360 drummers descended from the steps of the stands and made their way on down to the field all the while pounding out a rhythmic pattern on their drums. Another 300 musicians joined them in the center of the stadium.
Placido Domingo then began to sing a love serenade to a woman wearing a red dress who was riding a black stallion. It was Cristina Hoyos who happens to be a world renowned flamenco dancer.
"O sole mio" by Placido Domingo (a little extra thrown in here for those who enjoy his marvelous voice.)
Flamenco then takes center stage and ends the drama with style and grace.
The Parade of Athletes
172 teams of athletes from around the world started pouring into Olympic Stadium one team at a time. This was a proud moment for almost everyone involved and much cheering and flag waving took place as the stadium started to fill with the colors and members from each team.
The athletes were grouped by delegation and the Olympic field at the end is a mixture of colors holding approximately 12,000 plus individuals.
Some of the athletes who were to compete early the next morning did not take part in this ceremony so as to preserve their stamina for the games hoping to win Olympic medals for their respective countries.
Olympic Torch is Lit and the Finale
Wouldn't you know...I had to run out of film!
The Human Pyramids were also unable to be captured on film. This was an amazing spectacle. 2,174 men and women climbed on top of one another forming 12 living pyramids on the stadium field. It symbolized the twelve countries building a European community.
It was dark when the Olympic torch entered the stadium and laps were run by the bearers ultimately passing the flame to an archer. This was a moment of high drama as the archer shot the flame lit arrow up to ignite the cauldron atop the Gate of Olympic Stadium. We all held our breath hoping that he would hit his mark and he did to much applause and cheering.
This Olympic fire would continue to burn day and night until the close of Olympic competitions.
During the course of this opening ceremony we were entertained by some wonderful music including the official song "Friends for Life" composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Famous opera singers that were an integral part of this ceremony included the following:
- Placido Domingo
- Montserrat Caballe
- Jose Carreras
- Jaume Aragall
- Teresa Berganza
- and Joan Pons.
The evening was culminated by a roar of spectacular fireworks!
We started the exodus down the hill catching final views of the illuminated buildings and fountains. Catching a 1:30 AM charter flight to Mallorca we finally got to bed after 3:00 AM.
In subsequent days we were to see some Olympic games and more of Barcelona and the beautiful Island of Mallorca. But being able to be a part of an opening ceremony event for the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona will always live on in our memories.
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© 2009 Peggy Woods