Background image: Most work days at the Barcelona Olympics began by climbing Montjuic, topped by its 17th Century palace (now the National Catalan Art Museum), to get to the swimming, diving, gymnastics and track and field stadium atop the hill behind.
1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics
The lesson I learned in Barcelona, the first Summer Olympics I covered,
was that as big an undertaking as the Winter Games are, they are still
dwarfed by those in warm weather. Three times as many events, three
times as many athletes, three times as many places that you need to be
simultaneously to cover what's important.
There were always plenty of Bay Area athletes to track during the
Olympics, but none who would dominate public attention the way Kristi
Yamaguchi had a few months before in France.
In some ways, what the Barcelona Olympics were for me was preparation
for the next Summer Games to be held in Atlanta, where the importance
of the coverage of everything would be magnified by their presence on
For the first time in my Olympic experience, the Mercury News editors
didn’t book our team into media housing provided by the local organizing
committee but rented an apartment for us in a neighborhood just a few
blocks from the main press center.
My morning walk to work in this hot and humid city on Spain's
Mediterranean coast began with a stop at the corner bar. The lady who
served me coffee and pastry – if she had spoken English, she would have
been the kind of waitress who mothered you and called you “honey” –
would pick through my handful of Spanish coins for the right amount.
Then it was up a short but impressive boulevard lined with fountains
and named for a former queen, Avinguda Reina Maria Cristina, which
started at the enormous traffic circle and bull ring at the bottom of the
hill and went to the Font Magica, a huge fountain at the base of
Montjuic. This small mountain, topped by the palace in the
background image of this page, was also the site of several competition
venues such as swimming, diving, gymnastics and the main Olympic
stadium. (There's a nice aerial view of the neighborhood here)
At night the boulevard, fountains and palace were lit like an elegant
version of the Las Vegas strip, and thousands of Catalans – the residents
of Barcelona’s province do not think of themselves as Spanish nor prefer
to speak that language – strolled there until after midnight.
BARCELONA – He was "Little Melvin" back then, a kid who was small for a 10-year-old and who swam in a ratty YMCA in a run-down part of Charlotte, N.C.
Little Melvin was a big talker, though. He would tell you he was going to the Olympics.
"I'll be there," he said, "and I'll break a world record." …
When I first went to work as a sports writer for the Charlotte News, then the city’s afternoon paper, in 1976, the editor thought one way we could distinguish our coverage from the larger morning Observer was to cover children’s sports like Little League and Pop Warner football. Cerese Blanton, our sports agate clerk -- the woman who put together box scores and took score calls after Friday football games -- and I compiled lists of thousands of kids who competed for neighborhood swim clubs, cheerleaders and football players, baseball and soccer players, and published them in special sections at the start of their seasons. I scoured the county for feature stories, and one I stumbled onto was 10-year-old Melvin Stewart, star swimmer at the Johnston YMCA, which stood next to a deserted textile mill. We both wanted to go to the Olympics one day, and guess who I bumped into at the pool in Barcelona?
BARCELONA – For the past three weeks, the president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games has been holed up on the fifth floor of the Hotel Princesa Sofia on the posh Avinguda Diagonal.
He has lived the good life in a part of the city where life is the best.
Recorded jazz plays in the Maria Cristina subway station, the modern high-rise apartments are markedly farther apart than in older sections of the city, and the buffet breakfast of pastries and café con leche – coffee with milk – in the hotel restaurant is $28 a head. …
Billy Payne of Atlanta, who headed the organizing committee for that city’s Olympics, which I would cover four years after Barcelona, brought more than 100 members of his staff to Barcelona to shadow officials there and learn the intricacies of putting on the biggest sports event in the world. I thought that was a story worth writing about, especially since those Games would be back in the United States.