May 9, 2018: Excursion to Olympic Museum

The Sports and Society program in Barcelona, Spain provided so many opportunities to explore the city and areas relevant to our coursework through excursions. One of our first trips as a class was to the Olympic and Sport Museum on the hill of Montjuïc. Featuring items and information related to the history of the Olympic games, the museum held an interesting—and generally unknown—poster of an event titled the 1936 Olimpiada Popular. The Olimpiada Popular was planned as a protest against the 1936 summer Olympics that were being held in Berlin, Germany. During this time Adolf Hitler and the Nazi ideals controlled Germany and the Olimpiada Popular was offered as an alternative to competitors worldwide to show their resistance to the messages promoted by Nazi Germany. Ultimately, the alternate games—scheduled to be the week of July 19—were canceled due to the uprising of the Spanish Civil War. Although the Olimpiada Popular did not take place, the display of opposition to Nazi beliefs and the Berlin Olympic games was communicated through the athlete’s support and anticipated participation.

The use of sport as a tool to share and promote individual beliefs is not unique to Barcelona’s Olimpiada Popular; politics are gravely intertwined with sports, especially that of the Olympics. Our professor discussed this extension when noting how Hitler used the 1936 Olympics for political propaganda in hopes of displaying racial superiority, which is publicly rejected by the 4 event gold medalist and African American Jesse Owens. The Olympics were used as a public
stage for boycotting by individuals and nations alike. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, African American athletes, utilized the medal ceremony of the 1968 Olympics to express their defiance to the prejudiced treatment of African Americans. We were also able to connect boycotts of the Olympic games due to political disagreement, which occurred in the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, by the United States and the USSR respectively.

This excursion to the Olympic Museum provided a new insight into the impact of sports and competition. Sports are not simply utilized for entertainment or athletic engagement—real statements can be made through this interlocking relationship of sports and politics. The large public reach that is available can wield power to promote certain beliefs and actions to bring change.

May 13, 2018: Excursion to the Somorrostro Beach

Today during class we were sent on a scavenger hunt to the Somorrostro Beach with the goal of matching the current locations of highways, buildings, or shoreline to that of photos taken before the Olympic games held in Barcelona in 1992. In the past Barcelona has utilized large events to alter and evolve itself and the community; this was seen in 1888 and 1929 with the Universal Exhibit and later when Barcelona hosted the Olympics. The beach scene did not exist until the times of the 1992 Olympic games and the shoreline was cleaned up and even sand was imported from Egypt to make the beach appear as it does today.

Our first image to match captures the highway running near to the beach. In both photographs there is growing infrastructure with similarities of a boulevard dividing the lanes and the influx of people. As we traveled closer to the beach we were able to compare the cafés and restaurants are increasingly available on the shoreline now. Additionally, the beachfront and restaurants nearby now appear to draw a large crowd of tourists rather than being a space for
residents.The shoreline featured in the photographs from the past is cleaned up to be an actual beach for individuals to enjoy. The original area shows a lot of garbage and general soil/dirt rather than the sand and tones of luxury that is now present. This area has evolved into a tourist destination rather than a rough living condition. There is also greater evolved infrastructure with pavement, lighting and space for socialization. These areas appear to remain a place to meet and converse. The current shoreline spans further than what is presented in the past photographs. A recurrent observation is that the beach has been cleaned up and become a space for relaxation and enjoyment rather than that of poverty and struggle.

While walking down the boardwalk, we were lead to restaurants, clubs, and casinos encouraging the enjoyment of patrons and tourists. What is initially seen to be impoverished and substandard now emits a sense of luxury and affluence. It was surprising to see the evolution of the surrounding areas of Barcelona due to large world events. The images we had to compare with our walk down the beach reflect the dichotomy of poverty and tourism. The 1992 Olympic games had a great impact on the trajectory of Barcelona’s coast. What was once an area of struggle has evolved into one of wealth as shown by the growing infrastructure and international recognition.

May 20, 2018: Excursion to Centre Excursionista de Catalunya

Our class took a trip to the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya, the Hiking Center of Catalonia. Here we learned about the social significance of mountains such as Montserrat and the activity of hiking. Montserrat is a mountain range located near Barcelona. In Catalan, the name “Montserrat” translates to “saw mountain” reflecting the shape of the peaks and rock formation. These various rock formations that are jagged and distinct have different summits that individuals climb. At 1,236 meters above sea level, Sant Jeroni is the highest peak of the Montserrat Mountain. In addition to climbing and hiking, Montserrat is home to the Montserrat Monastery since the ninth century. Declared as Spain’s first National Park, Montserrat holds different values and meanings to individuals who go to enjoy the mountain range.

The unique shape of the mountains can be seen in the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya’s logo. The CEC began in 1876 with the purpose of scientific exploration and evolved over time. The 18th and 19th century in Europe held the Enlightenment and Romanticism periods of wanting to explore and further get in touch with nature. Catalonia experienced their own renaissance, termed “La Renaixença”, where there was a growing interest with their own culture and tradition. During this time hiking was used to understand and learn about one’s surroundings. Beyond a physical activity or enjoyable pastime, hiking grew to become a cultural activity in Catalonia.

Associations like the CEC place an emphasis on Catalan culture. Similarly to how sports in general are regarded, hiking is an extension of cultural expression. People are necessary for sport and ideas, language, and traditions are spread through this action of gathering. The force of this gathering is displayed in the Franco dictatorship. Hiking in uninhabited areas of the mountain allowed for the spread of Catalan language, which outwardly rejects Franco’s push for Spanish nationalism and Spanish being the sole official language. With a strong association of hiking to Catalan nationalism, some hiking associations were banned. The excursion to this hiking center showed us how hiking promoted a way of life of culture and innovation rather than simply a physical pastime.