I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).
In the summer of 1992, my husband and I were fortunate to attend the Opening Ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The XXV Olympiad Games 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 Catalonia's capital, Barcelona has long been a tourist area due to its Mediterranean climate and attractive cityscapes and countryside. Many centuries of settlement have made this city an exciting mixture of the medieval regions that are cramped and crowded and other spacious and green areas.
There is a separatist movement 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 they worked diligently to transform their city. They built Olympic venues, and preparations took place to host the onslaught of athletes worldwide and the crowds of people who would perhaps be seeing their city for the first time. Many of the venues were ready a full year in advance of this spectacle. Barcelona was shined up and made ready to put on a memorable show!
Walking Up To Olympic Stadium
We were with a group of people staying on the Island of Mallorca. We 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 p.m.
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.
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 stadium held something like 70,000 people!
It was a sweltering day in Barcelona, and most of the people were all wearing shorts or, at the least, very comfortable clothing with good walking shoes.
This Olympics was our first 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 specific pins were die-hearted traders on a mission to increase their holdings' value. If they spotted the desired pin that they wished to add to their collection, they would often offer two or three pins in exchange for the one they wanted. Most like us were 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 mingled with the masses, making their way up Montjuic on that hot day.
Montjuic Park sits atop a rocky hill that is at a height of 173 meters in Barcelona. The building dominating the top of the hill as one approaches it from the street level is the castle used by the military for many years. It now houses a military museum.
Many beautiful gardens are at the top of Montjuic. We caught a glimpse of some of them as we were moving en masse towards the stadium.
There is a Spanish Village on Montjuic 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 spent some time in the Miro Foundation on another day when we came back for one of the Olympic events - men's diving. One could spend many days on Montjuic exploring all of the many different venues, but that was not our goal of this eventful day.
Once 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, including a metal detector, and all handbags were searched. Much mounted police were in evidence.
Opening Ceremonies Festivities Begin!
The mayor of Barcelona, Pasqual Maragall, and the International Olympic Committee president, 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 with much fanfare. A memorial to cities and athletes that participated in the past Olympics took place. The XXV Olympic Games began with the most beautiful ceremony.
Eighty 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.
Montserrat Caballe and Jose Carreras sang the Welcome, while 600 dancers 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 monsters attack them. Victorious at last, the men found a city, and legend has it that city became Barcelona.
Accompanying this glorious site was 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.
Land of Passion
The next bit of theatrics was thunderous as 360 drummers descended from the stands and made their way 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 riding a black stallion. It was Cristina Hoyos, who happens to be a world-renowned flamenco dancer. Flamenco dancing then takes center stage and ends the drama with style and grace.
Parade of Athletes
One hundred seventy-two teams of athletes worldwide started pouring into Olympic Stadium, one country at a time. It 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 Olympic field, in 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 participate in this ceremony 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. It was a fantastic spectacle. Two thousand one hundred seventy-four men and women formed 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. It was a high drama moment 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. The fire would continue to burn day and night until the close of competitions.
During this opening ceremony, we heard some incredible 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! Being a part of an opening ceremony event for the Olympic games in Barcelona will always live on in our memories.
© 2009 Peggy Woods