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!).
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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