The BBC did a feature yesterday on the legacy of the Barcelona Olympics, widely considered to have set the benchmark for driving regeneration and renewing the host city. You can listen to David Bond’s report HERE. There are lessons for London, and these fall into two categories: the Olympic venues (less important), and the wider vision for the city (much more so).
Olympic Stadium: no longer in use
Barcelona’s Olympic stadium no longer has a tenant – the last one left a couple of years ago – so sadly it is now walled off, although there are apparently still guided tours. The swimming complex, with the dramatic city backdrop to the diving competition, lies disused on the edge of Montjuic. But this has not distracted from the balance of the Games’ legacy.
Swimming and diving complex: also disused
The suburb of Barceloneta, for so long a forgotten neighbourhood where fishermen lived – and which had a waste dump on its doorstep – was revamped and the beach cleaned up in time for the Games. This is a far more enduring legacy, with the sands extending north east past Port Olympic, a new neighbourhood built around the site of the yachting venue.
Barceloneta: no longer forgotten, and no rubbish tip
And then there is the transport infrastructure: contrary to popular belief, not much of the recent improvements were in place for the Games. One project that was completed beforehand was the rebuilding of the Montjuic Funicular, which connects the Metro station at Paral.lel to the upper station, across the road from the swimming pools and close to the Olympic stadium.
Don't forget what's already there: the Boqueria Market
But the all-new and accessible Line 2 of the Metro, which terminates at Paral.lel, was not completed until three years after the Olympic circus had moved on. It became part of a raft of developments that continued the work for the Games, and here’s the lesson for London: there is no point just stopping after the athletes leave. The Games should just be the start, part of a longer term vision.
Barcelona's new TRAM: part of the longer term vision
Many believe that the city’s new Tram system is Games related. It isn’t. This is yet another project that has improved the standard of public transport as the city has experienced significant growth in their aftermath, both relieving existing links and helping to open up new neighbourhoods in the north east of Barcelona, in Besos and Sant Adria.
"Bicing" scheme: no bankers on these bikes
And finally: the city has a cycle scheme, as does London, but there is no sponsor’s logo. This line-up of “Bicing” bikes was snapped by the Arc de Triomf to the east of the city centre. It’s another part of the transport networks that have come after the Games, and once again shows that there is no point in using those Games as a fait accompli. London has to make them part of a continuing process.
It’s 20 years since the Barcelona Games. London needs that scale of vision, too.