From London to Barcelona and back again…

The SMJ’s are having dialogue with people from all over the world who lived in an Olympic City at the time of a Games..

With the help of Charlie Tims they are interviewing a whole host of people who lived in Beijing in 2009, Athens in 2004, Sydney in 2000, Atlanta in 1996, Barcelona in 1992, Seoul in 1988, Moscow in 1980, Montreal in 1976, Munich in 1972 Mexico City in 1968 and so on ..So far, Nathan, Kim, Jake and Sonia have all posed questions to Sarah Shewey who is an events producer from LA – she was 3 at the time of the Games in 1984 and her dad was a fanatic – read more on Kim’s blog 

This is an exciting opportunity, and interesting to hear people’s different experiences and feelings about such a big happening in their cities with a bit of hindsight .. This relates also to the two day conference I’ve just been attending held by Birkbeck University at the UEL campus in Stratford entitled ‘Learning From Barcelona: Art, Real Estate and The Pre-Olympic City’. There were lots of interesting speakers ranging from architects and artists, academics and writers to researchers and town planners looking back at the 1992 Olympic Games..  including Dr Beatriz Garcia  who is an advisor to The International Olympics Committee (IOC) and to The 2012 Cultural Olympiad team..she has spent the last ten years examining the importance of the cultural context and hosting process of an Olympic Games and the relationships and tensions between all stakeholders .. Also speaking at the conference was Hackney based author Iain Sinclair on the impact of a Mega Event on its local borough and natural habitat and a place dear to his heart, Hackney …The conference asked what lessons we can take from the Barcelona’ Games in 1992 which re-positioned itself in the eyes of the world as a result of hosting the games .. London doesn’t need to position itself globally, so what does it want to achieve? and what learnings can we bring to London from other countries who have? ..The second day also included an unofficial tour of The Olympic Park led by Peter Coles – “Views from the Edge: A Walk Around the Perimeter of the Olympic Site” the whole event was very thought provoking and raised big questions about the tensions between who ‘owns’ the games and who owns the narrative of the games? How do you please the big, corporate stake holders, whilst simultaneously include local communities and traditions.. How do you let people own their own feelings of pride and celebration as well as present a unified front to the world .. How do local artists and families get involved and feel like a part of a whole?  Time constraints and pressures and fast turn-arounds versus big questions around sustainability and the environment which were not even on anyone’s radar during the ‘92 games in Barcelona can cause serious problems .. though many things WERE done so beautifully and with a backdrop of sea and mountains to frame the four olympic points clearly marked out in the Catalan capital.

I was there – I spent three glorious years in Barcelona between ‘91 and ‘94 and happened to be in exactly the right place at the right time for the ‘92 Olympics. Along with a group of friends, we witnessed the city change and surge towards Los Juegos Olympicos. We watched as Mariscal’s mascot Cobi became as familiar as Gaudi’s undulating architecture and the eyes of the world turned its attention to us ..

We managed to get work for The BBC, The AuBC, NBC .. we ran around and fixed and interpreted, the atmosphere was electric. We marvelled as the Dream Team waltzed past us in the street and I watched the men’s diving final from the pool at the top of Montjuic feeling proud of the city even though it wasn’t mine, only my temporary home…

So, it will be interesting to hear what the SMJ’s find out about other host cities the people they will be interviewing over the coming months – reliving their memories and finding out what thoughts, suggestions for 2012 they might have, or things they would like to have seen done differently if they had their Olympic time again? .. Watch their blogs for more details

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