Arts + Culture

The Olympics Effect

by Bob Payne

Barcelona, Summer 1992:
The Successful Olympics

Going for gold: Barcelona's Games was such a success that you can be damn sure every subsequent Olympic host studied its model carefully. It not only presented a face to the world that everyone wanted to see more of, it also built an infrastructure that could accommodate them. We can't help but think Bilbao took a few tips from Barcelona before the "Bilbao Effect" sparked global interest five years after the Games. To realize that the formula isn't as simple as it sounds, however, you only need know that the next Summer Games to follow Barcelona—Atlanta—was one of the most disorganized, image-tarnishing Olympics ever.

Tourism legacy: Although the weird communications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava became one of the symbols of the event, the 1992 Games' real legacy is the overhaul, as part of $8 billion in infrastructure spending, of Barcelona's port and coast (pictured), and the transformation of the shanty villages of Poblenou into neighborhoods people would actually want to visit. It also raised the city's profile and showcased its unique architecture and cuisine.

Results: Gold. Although critics complained that housing prices increased dramatically in newly gentrified neighborhoods, the bright side was that as a result of the Games, Barcelona has so increased its tourism numbers that it is now fourth—after London, Paris, and Rome—among the most visited cities in Europe.

NEXT: The Real Thing? >

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