Tarragona Games ‘most austere in history,’ says deputy mayor
Javier Villamayor: “Tarragona is clearly a Mediterranean city with a Mediterranean mood”
Javier Villamayor is the deputy mayor of Tarragona and one of the people in charge of making the 18th edition of the Mediterranean Games a reality. Organizing the event was no easy task, and it was even postponed in 2016 following budget uncertainty caused by the 10-month long government formation in Spain. The Mediterranean Games have come about a year later, but they’re finally in full-swing and running until Sunday.
Is the Tarragona city council happy with the result so far? Do you think the Tarragona public is engaged in these Games?
I think it’s very important to start by making a clear statement about what this means for Tarragona, the smallest city to ever host these Games, to organize the 18th edition of the Med Games. For us, it has taken a lot of hard work to get here, but you can see two clear signs of success. The first is construction, the fact that we have been building new sporting venues in the city and the towns surrounding Tarragona to host these Games. This represented a significant economic effort, though we were not alone in this effort, because the Catalan government, the Spanish government and also the region authorities of Tarragona and Barcelona have provided funding for this transformation of the sporting venues that were already in place. The only two new constructions in Tarragona were the Olympic swimming pool, financed by the Spanish government, and the new sports pavillion for 5,000 spectators, which was completely funded by the government of Catalonia, representing overall a budget of nearly 70 million euros in new sporting facilities or renovation of existing facilities. And the second thing is the effort we have been making to make these Games the most austere in the history of the Med Games, because we wanted to send a clear message to society that we wanted to save the money in those items, in those aspects of the organization that we thought were not needed. But on the contrary, austerity does not mean less ambition about what these Games mean for our city and the province of Tarragona.
What about the economic impact? What will Tarragona get in return when it comes to tourism, to people visiting the city? What’s your assessment?
I think we can explain the social and economic impact of this event in three ways. First of all, is obviously the construction of these new sporting venues and the hiring of people to work on the construction. We have calculated that nearly a thousand people, directly and indirectly, have worked on these public works, this represented a very important opportunity for the construction sector and the companies in this sector. Secondly, there is the reputation and the promotion of the name of the city and the coastal area of Tarragona because I think we always complain about the fact that Tarragona was not very well-known, or at least not very known in Spain or the European Mediterranean area. The goal of this event, the organization of these Games, the main goal was to promote Tarragona overseas and I think we are getting enough public and media attention, because we have the Catalan broadcasting channel, the Spanish broadcasting channel, and many local television stations, following the organization of this event and the different competitions. And third, I would like to add that the volunteer program and the educational program sends a clear message about citizens cooperating with this event. We reached our target of 3,500 volunteers very soon in the process of organizing this volunteer program, and we had at least 8,000 people registered as volunteers. So this is clear proof that society in Catalonia and Tarragona was engaged.
Now that spotlight is on Tarragona because of these Mediterranean Games, Tarragona has many things to people willing to discover the city. Could you explain what Tarragona can offer on the cultural level when it comes to tourism etc?
In fact, Tarragona was one of the capitals of the Roman Empire on the Iberian Peninsula nearly 2,000 years ago. So when you walk through the city, you can see many monuments, many reminders of the presence of the Roman Empire in our city. Those monuments were declared World Heritage Sites by Unesco in 2000. So for us 2000 was the beginning of a very active campaign to make people aware of our city’s potential and it is very important to stress the quality of our gastronomy, the quality of our beaches, the quality of not just the monuments but also the cultural life, the social life, and we are completely open to everyone who is willing to come to us to experience this feeling. Tarragona is clearly a Mediterranean city with a Mediterranean mood, and a Mediterranean beat for the quality of life and social cohesion, and I think this event, the Games are making the goals easier