A Day At THE Park (Montjuich Park)
Talk about your local park and what images come to mind? Sunny days in the kids’ playground or maybe feeding the ducks? Climbing trees, or a day long game of football perhaps?

For locals in one European city, their ‘local park’ has hosted both Grand Prix racing and an Olympic Games – Oh, and it now houses a top ranked football team too!

Welcome to the historic Montjuich Park, in the fabulous city of Barcelona.

This was the surprise destination for a long weekend for the dsc Deputy Editor, his (new but already long-suffering) wife Trudie being very keen indeed to put distance between hubby and motorsport for a few days at least (or so she thought!).

Barcelona is a particularly significant destination for the Deputy Ed. as it was here, in 1992, that he spent several weeks in the dream job of “UK Press Attach é to the British Olympic Team”: it was a fabulous time to be in the city, as hundreds of thousands of sports fans descended on the Catalan capital to enjoy a global festival of entertainment.

The decade or so that has passed since then has shown what a springboard an Olympic Games can provide for the economic regeneration of a city, a trick that the bidding cities involved in the current race to hold the 2012 Games will be keen to repeat.

dailysportscar.comIndeed, the commercial area that leads up to the historic Montjuich Park was packed to the rafters with the setting up of a major international construction exhibition throughout our visit. It might take the edge off the picture postcard shots for a week or so, but it brings thousands more people from all over the planet to experience all the city has to offer.

The park’s spectacular ‘Magic Fountains’ played to an audience of tens of thousands every night in 1992 and they are still popular today, the dancing water accompanied by soaring operatic arias.

And so to the park itself.

It has often been said that it is inconceivable to imagine Formula One racing being held at a number of circuits from days of yore – for example the Nordschleife, the original Spa-Francorchamps and of course Monte Carlo. Montjuich Park most certainly falls into that bracket: the circuit which bordered the park was a scary place to go racing.

The bus route that links City Centre and Park traverses much of what was once the course for the Spanish Grand Prix and, to say the least, Herman Tilke would have his work cut out to iron out the safety issues! Tight turns, narrow, narrow roads, with camber changes, from the book labelled “Don’t for god’s sake race here” and as for run off areas – forget it. Where Shanghai and Bahrain have acres of high grip tarmac, Montjuich Park has kerbs, stone walls, lamp posts and lots and lots of trees!

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To watch the world’s best drivers in the world’s fastest cars here must have been a stunning sensory experience. You can well understand how such events left fans loyal for decades. But this was the venue for tragedy and heroism in equal measure, during the four modern era Grands Prix held here from 1969 through to 1975.

The 1969 race saw wing failures for Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt and Jacky Ickx, Hill and Rindt’s failures happening at the same point on the circuit and launching their Lotuses into huge accidents. The potential for a tragic accident caused by the failure of the then rather untested aerofoils was recognised by the governing body and action was taken.

The madness of racing here stopped (for the F1 cars at least) after the 1975 event was curtailed early after Rolf Stommelen’s Hill Ford car was catapulted into a spectator enclosure following another wing failure: the accident killed five onlookers. Motorcycle racing astonishingly lasted rather longer, the opening of Jerez (and other tragic accidents) finally calling time on the half century long motorsport history of the Barcelona venue.

The international sporting life of the park lay dormant for two decades before the original Olympic Stadium was rebuilt (by the simple expedient of digging below the original stadium structure and constructing a further level of accommodation beneath it) to act as the centrepiece for the 1992 Olympic Games.

dailysportscar.comAs with any Olympic Games, the stadium saw heroes created and dreams shattered – the Dep Ed was at the end of the athletes’ tunnel to see Linford Christie win the 100m Gold medal (right), and was in the stands to see Britain’s Derek Redmond helped across the line in tears by his father, after an injury ended his shot at a 400m medal.

There was a titanic long jump battle between the legendary Carl Lewis and the young pretender Mike Powell - and many more snap-shotted memories besides.

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dailysportscar.comThe stadium today is home to Barcelona’s second Football team Espanyol, top class football replacing athletics as the bread and butter business of the day - and no doubt creating new heroes in this extraordinary place. A running track still remains in place – as does the bowl for the Olympic Torch, lit at the start of the Games by a flaming arrow shot from the stadium floor by a paralympian archer.

It beats the hell out of an ice cream man and a couple of rusty swings doesn’t it?

As we power on into the 21st century it seems that most world class sport now plays second fiddle to business – it’s a necessary evil of course, but if you get the chance, take time to stand and breathe in the atmosphere of places like this. There’s something more in the air than balance sheets and decimal points – there’s a human factor. And that’s something that money just can’t buy.
GG

 

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