FROM DROUGHT TO GREEN SPROUTS (1896-1988)
After being absent from Athens in 1896, the first Hispanic participation arrived in Paris 1900. Only eight athletes attended these Games – which, let us remember, were framed within the World Exposition in the French capital -, among them the pelotaris Villota and Amézola that they got in the couples mode the first Spanish gold in history. This first and the successive Spanish participations in the Olympic Games were marked by the shortage of athletes (mainly for economic reasons). This fact was reflected in the medal table. And is that until 1976 the Hispanic balance was only eleven medals in thirteen OlympicsThe best participations being those of Antwerp’20 and Montreal’76, both of which were settled with two silvers. We went out to a “plate” on average every four years. Too little…
We had to wait until the 1980 and 1984 Games to see the first green shoots of Spanish sport (eleven medals between both appointments). In two editions, Spain had equaled the spoils of the previous thirteen. Of course, with many reservations, since both Olympic Games. were marked by the boycott. A Moscow The United States and several of its Western allies, such as Canada, Japan or the Federal Republic of Germany, did not attend. In total, there were 66 countries that did not forgive the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan. Four years later the omelette was turned and it was the Soviets themselves and most of the Iron Curtain states that did not attend. The Angels. Precisely in the legendary Forum of Inglewood from the Californian capital, Spanish sport starred in another great feat after overcoming the hitherto invincible in the basketball semifinals Yugoslavia of a very young Petrovic. Already in the final, before a selection of USA commanded by Mullin, Ewing and a certain Michael Jordan, Spain succumbed by 96 to 65. But little mattered. Silver tasted like gold and it is that, in addition to giving impetus to Spanish basketball, the feat of the boys of Diaz-Miguel made it possible, among many other things, that Calderon, Navarro O Gasol, in their first bounces to the ball, they will dream of being the new Corbalán, And O Fernando Martin…
The games of Seoul it seemed that they were going to determine the true progress of Spanish sport. Leaving aside the communist authoritarian regimes (mainly the USSR, China, East Germany and, to a lesser extent, Cuba), one of the surprisingly most accurate measures of a country’s social progress and economic development is its athleticism. We are in 1988 and the Spanish State has been integrated into the European Union (at that time the European Economic Community) for a little over two years. Likewise, the Spain of freedoms is a fully consolidated democracy and its GDP makes it the ninth world power… Everything suggested that our sport was going to pass the cotton test in the first Olympics. no boycott in eight years. The most ambitious goal was to surpass the six Moscow metals in the South Korean capital. It was not achieved but the best result achieved so far in an Olympics without absences was doubled: four medals (gold of want in Sailing; silver of double Sánchez Vicario-Casal in Tennis and bronze for the swimmer Sergi Lopez and to Jorge Guardiola in Tire).
THE BEFORE AND AFTER: BARCELONA 92
October 17, 1986, Lausanne (Switzerland). 13.40 hours. Tense wait. We are just seconds away from knowing which city has been chosen by the IOC members to host the Games of the XXV Olympiad. The candidates are Barcelona and Paris. It seems the time has come … The President Juan Antonio Samaranch He takes out a piece of paper from an envelope and, in the most perfect French allowed by its Catalan origin, pronounces that “to the City of Barcelona“That, this time, would change Spanish sport forever. Barcelona 92 is already a reality …
To say Barcelona is to speak of a lively and vibrant city; of modernism and literature, of art and culture. In other words, Gaudí, Miró or Tàpies. Even Picasso and Dalí. It is a night walk through the Gòtic or a chill when (ad) looking at the Sagrada Familia for the first time … Barcelona is where to frame the senses, the sensations … and the place where Spanish sport, finally, became greater . Arthur Schnitzler, an Austrian novelist and Freud’s colleague, used to say that “being prepared is important, knowing how to wait is even more so, but seizing the right moment is the key to life.” And what if the Spanish athletes took advantage of it: twenty two medals (thirteen of them of gold, seven of silver and two bronzes). Some of them expected, such as those of López-Zubero (swimming), the cyclist Jose Manuel Moreno or several of the five that were won in sailing. And others that were real surprises, such as the men’s archery team or the women’s hockey team. Special mention deserve those that made our skin crawl. Like the silvers of Jordi Arrese in tennis, from the oriolana Carolina Pascual in rhythmic gymnastics and the water polo team in that epic final against Italy … Or the unforgettable golds of Miriam Blasco (Alicante by adoption and first Spanish medalist in history), from Fermín Cacho in 1500 or that of the soccer team -which had the Alicante Paqui Veza- in an exciting final against Poland that was decided with a goal from Kiko Narváez at the last minute… Without a doubt, the ADO’92 program, which had started in 1987, paid off in Barcelona. Spain had reached its destination on time, rubbing shoulders with the great Olympic powers.
CONSOLIDATION AS A SPORTS POWER
It was to be expected that the lees of the “Barcelona effect” would be noticed in Atlanta 96 and Sydney 2000. So it was. Especially in the capital of the state of Georgia. There Spain obtained 17 medals (five of them gold), highlighting the victories of Indurain in individual time trial, of the women’s rhythmic gymnastics team (with Estela Gimenez and the vilera Marta Baldó) or the water polo team. In addition, there were two other metals with Alicante color: the silver of the Hockey team -with Joan Escarré as a star- and the bronze of the judoka from Torrellano, Isabel Fernandez. Sydney it reflected an eventual slowdown in Spanish sport: there was a decline in the medal table but not in the number of finalists (athletes located between fourth and eighth position). In the city of the Opera House we had seven more finalists than in Atlanta and, among them, there were no less than eleven fourth places. Among the eleven metals that were obtained, those of the football Y handball and the three golds: Gervasio Deferr (gymnastics), Joan Llaneras (cycling) and our Isabel Fernández, who was going to be in Athens 2004 the first standard-bearer of the Spanish delegation. Precisely in the Greek capital, the results were once again excellent: 52 finalists and twenty medals, of which the Deferr’s second consecutive Olympic gold, that of the canoeist David Cal and that of the couple of 49ers sailing (X. Fernández / Íker Martínez).
The following Olympics have followed the same line as Athens 2004. In both Beijing 2008 and London 2012, Spanish athletes climbed to the podium nineteen times, while in Rio de Janeiro they did so seventeen times.. At the Games in the Chinese capital, in which we saw a living legend of world sport wear gold as Rafa Nadal and in which we even had athletes who did double -David Cal (two silvers) and Llaneras (gold and silver) – they were “losers” who monopolized all the flashes. The Gasol, Navarro, Calderón or Rudy basketball team Fernandez he lost the final to the United States in what all experts call the best national team basketball game in history. The defeat (118-107) against Redeem Team of LeBron James, Anthony or Bryant was the culmination of the dream that germinated with that silver of 84 and the best possible victory: to be remembered forever.
The last two Olympics Contested to date, those of London 2012 and Rio 2016, brought the not inconsiderable figure of 67 diplomas that complemented the thirty-six metals obtained between them. On the banks of the Thames the most relevant, within the good general performance, was the gold of the taekwondo player Joel gonzalez, the new runner-up of the basketball team – defeated again by the USA in another historic game (107 to 100) – and the two silvers of the swimmer Mireia Belmonte. With regard to what happened in Rio de Janeiro, we are left with Belmonte’s new double (this time in gold and silver) and with the triumphs of Carolina Marin -in a sport without tradition in Spain like badminton- and of the jumper Ruth Beitia (who, at age 37 and fourth, was finally able to savor Olympic glory). All women? Of course. And, if we stick precisely to these last two Olympic Games, of the 36 medals won by Spain, 22 were won by our women (61%). In addition to this, it must be added that in the expedition sent by the COE to Los Angeles 84 there were barely 10% women, while in Rio the percentage was already 47%. These data highlight Spain as a modern and developed country and, the fact that 125 of the 151 Spanish Olympic medals have been won between 1992 and 2016, reaffirm you as a sports power.
TOKYO AND THE NEW INSTANTS
But what can we expect from the Games that begin (if the Covid allows it) on July 23? Will the cap of twenty-two medals be exceeded? The graph below shows the Spanish options in Tokyo 2020.
A little over two months before the start of the Olympic Games and according to this first sketch, we can see that there are more than enough wickers to continue growing and obtain, at least, a figure close to twenty-five medals. Barcelona 92 was the turning point of our sport. What happened in the Catalan capital forever changed our way of competing. Since then we learned to win and, above all, to normalize what a few years ago was extraordinary. Will Spain be able to improve the record of the twenty-two metals in Tokyo? It is possible but, whether or not it succeeds, there is no doubt about two things: the first, that those Olympics of one, two or five medals will never come back and, secondly, that our athletes will continue to manufacture instants that, whether or not they crystallize in gold, silver or bronze, will remain forever in our retinas. And, as someone once said, we are instants. And he was absolutely right. Our sport is all the good and bad lived in the 125 years of the modern era of Olympism. The Spanish athletes who will be in Tokyo are the tears of Manel Estiarte after losing the final battle against him Settebello, the humiliating “angolazo” from Barcelona or the chocolate medal from Marathon Man Martín Fiz in Atlanta 96 … but they are also the shouts of Carolina Marín, the “let’s go!” by Arantxa Sánchez Vicario or that “the peloton, Sabino, who ran over them” … Spanish sport is based on those moments and on a thousand more … Ready to live the new moments that will arrive from 23 of July?
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.