Barcelona pays tribute to its Olympics that never took place
Outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 made it impossible for 5,000 athletes to take part in People’s Games planned for the city
On July 19, 1936, Barcelona was to have hosted the People’s Olympics, but just two days before the Games were to start, a military uprising against the Spanish Republican government began. It marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and eventually led to Francisco Franco’s 40-year-long dictatorship.
Now, 81 years later, Barcelona has paid tribute to the athletes, organizers and volunteers who were to have taken part in the 1936 Games, at a moving event, organized by the Catalan foreign affairs ministry.
According to the Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva, it was important and necessary to celebrate this event because of “the long silence, the unfortunate oblivion and even disdain” shown towards it.
“The non-celebration of the People’s Olympics due to the 1936 coup turned the field of sports into a symbol," said Romeva. The foreign minister attended the event accompanied by Barcelona city council representative, Jaume Asens, who also stressed the importance of the tribute, saying that “Catalonia’s worst enemy is forgetting.”
The 1936 People’s Olympics, which was an attempt to offer an alternative to the Olympic Games organized by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in Berlin, made Barcelona stand out as “the ideal place” to fight fascism, Romeva said. And he added that Catalonia has fought social and national oppression for decades.
"The values of 1936 were freedom, cooperation and fighting against extremist values, and these values are still valid here"
Raül Romeva · Minister of Foreign Affairs
"The values of 1936 were freedom, cooperation and fighting against extremist values, and these values are still valid here," the minister said. According to Romeva, the Catalan government wished to pay tribute to "those people who came to defend these values." He also mentioned the children from all over the country who, in his view, will go on standing up for them in the future.
The former president of the association of Franco-era prisoners and volunteer in the Olympiad, Maria Salvo, also took part in the event, along with Antoni and Alfons Cànovas, swimmers for the Barceloneta swimming club and later soldiers in the Republican army, who had meant to take part in the Games. At the same time, a representative of the Clarion Cycling Club 1895 also took part in the homage, fresh from commemorating the International Brigades combatants with a bicycle ride from London to Barcelona. At the event, the official People’s Olympic anthem with the music of Hans Eisman was played for the first time.
Before the main event began to honor the People’s Olympics, about 500 children aged 10 to 12 took part in a multi-sports competition. The children from all over Catalonia competed in disciplines such as basketball, football, archery and table tennis. Yet it was not at all about winning; the Olympic spirit and enthusiasm were more than present in the expressions and laugher of the children throughout the morning.
The original Games, funded by the French and Spanish Republics and the Catalan government, had mobilized around 5,000 athletes. When the war broke out, some of these athletes decided to stay and join the Republican forces to defend the Spanish democracy.