Today, Barcelona is one of Europe’s most successful cities in terms of tourism: a center for the arts, for sport, for gastronomy. What changed everything this time round, it is widely acknowledged, was the 1992 Olympic Games.
This was the pivotal event that stopped Barcelona looking inwardly, towards the mountains, and turned it around to embrace the water and the future. Architect Richard Rogers wrote in Britain’s Guardian newspaper of the transformation: “Barcelona has become the most confident city in the western world in terms of urban regeneration… It was ultimately successful because it used the Games as a catalyst for improving the life of the city and of the nation.”
This sentiment of a new vision is conveyed in a six-meter tall bronze, El Cul (“The Bottom”) of some curvy legs and a pair of buttocks in a small park near the Olympic Marina. The figure could face either way – the mountains, or the sea. The statue is supposed to signify this new choice and opportunity brought by the Games, although its sculptor, Eduardo Úrculo, more prosaically said he was pleased “Barcelona was the first Western city to have a monument dedicated to the bottom”.
Whichever way you see it, those iconic images from 1992 of high divers poised on the top board at the Olympic pool on Montjuïc hill, the whole of the city stretched out below them, imbued the city with both glamour and passion. Suddenly, everybody wanted a piece of Barcelona. Buildings were cleaned up. Cruise ships began to arrive in the port. Futuristic new galleries opened. Visitors flocked to La Rambla, the famous boulevard that extends from the city center to the waterfront, for promenading and people-watching. The factories that once polluted the sea had long since moved further north to make way for swish hotels, the Port Olímpic and urban beaches of artificial sand, their EU blue flags fluttering in the breeze.
Use your travel knowledge to help friends, family, and other travelers book the best hotels. Click here to learn about becoming a TRVL Agent!