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CITIES WRESTLING TO LAY CLAIM TO THE 1992 OLYMPICS : Barcelona Says It Needs the Games for Vitality

August 24, 1986|SAM HALL KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain — The fervent hope of this city on the Mediterranean coast is that six years from this week, in August 1992, the Summer Games of the XXVth Olympiad will be in their last, glorious throes here.

"With all due respects to Los Angeles and the wonderful show it put on in 1984, and whatever Seoul has planned for 1988, the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona are going to be simply the best ever," Mayor Pasqual Maragall said recently.

His confidence--backed by an estimated $150 million the city already has spent in planning and preparing for the Games--will be tested in October when the International Olympic Committee meets to choose the host cities for the 1992 Winter and Summer Games.

Among the leading contenders for the '92 Summer Games are an equally confident Paris and a more subdued Amsterdam. Less serious contenders are Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Birmingham, England, and Brisbane, Australia.

"It is our turn," said Maragall, noting that Paris and Amsterdam already have had Summer Games and that France also is bidding for the '92 Winter Games. He added that this is the fourth time Barcelona has sought the Games, having lost out to Paris in 1924, the Spanish Civil War and Berlin in 1936 and Munich in 1972.

Even so, Barcelona's past efforts have produced a variety of facilities, among them a substantial stadium for track and field events and a swimming and diving complex. Although the stadium must be rebuilt and the swim facility renovated, both are key elements in its present application.

"Of the 37 required competition facilities, 27 are already built; 5 are under construction and will be finished in the next few years and only 5 are still in the planning stages," says the city's application to the IOC. Also cited is a wide range of training facilities.

In a supplement to the application, the city says that its soccer stadiums, with 125,000- and 45,000-seat capacities, were used for the final matches of the 1982 World Cup and that its sleek new velodrome was the site of the World Cycling Championships in 1984.

Jose Miguel Abad, who at this stage is Barcelona's equivalent of Peter Ueberroth, said that a number of world-renowned architects and urban designers are involved in the planning for the city's Olympic committee.

"Unlike Los Angeles, where most of the facilities were designed for the moment, we are having them designed so they can become permanent resources for the community," said Abad, who, before taking over the Olympic effort, was the city's manager of urban planning. "The improvements we are planning, such as the Olympic Village and new roadways, are not only necessary for the Games but are vital to the future of the city."

Said Maragall: "Bidding for the Olympics has put the improvements into a timetable."

Maragall, who as an urban economist attended the Center for Metropolitan Planning and Research at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University and received a graduate degree from the New York School for Social Research, describes himself as a Socialist and a sports fan--"like the majority of Barcelona residents"--and adds that the combination should work well for both the Olympics and the city of 4 million people.

"Our bid is actually a planning tool," Maragall said. "If we don't get the Games, and that will be a tragedy for the Olympic spirit as well as us, the improvements will nevertheless go forward. But no doubt they will go at a much slower pace and without the same support of the public.

"Paris and Amsterdam may want the 1992 Games, but Barcelona needs them, if only for the stimulation, the energy and enthusiasm it will lend us."

Barcelona has been intensely lobbying the IOC--and just about anyone else who will listen--for the designation since 1981, when it became the first city to indicate its interest in the '92 Games.

Pledging support has been Spain's diverse body politic, including King Juan Carlos, the Spanish Parliament, the regional Catalonia assembly and Barcelona's broad array of Socialists, monarchists, conservatives, anarchists and chamber of commerce groups.

Even the fiercely separatist Basques have tacitly agreed not to set off any bombs that might mar the city's chances, according to Maragall, and ran a special edition of their nationalist newspaper praising Barcelona's efforts to attract the Games.

"In Spain, sports transcends national politics," said the mayor, who as a Socialist has been working closely with the conservative Barcelona business community in preparing the city's bid.

As for Olympic politics, no doubt helping Barcelona's bid by his presence is Juan Samaranch, a Spanish member of the IOC and its president.

Over the last year, the process has involved a steady stream of IOC members descending upon Barcelona. "They are quite alert and demanding," said Alejandra de Habsburgo-Lorena, the city's chief of protocol.

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