MADRID, Sep. 3 (.) –
The 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games, which were held from September 3 to 14, continued the success of the Olympic Games weeks before and were also a great sporting and organizational success, marking a before and after in the conception of this event and the beginning of the gradual growth of sports for the disabled in Spain, which reached a high level in the event.
For twelve days, the best athletes with disabilities competed in Barcelona in a Games that, like the Olympics, have been considered the best in history in competition possibly with those of Beijing 2008 and, above all, with those of London 2012, these celebrated in a country with an enormous sports culture in this facet.
For Barcelona, which hosted the IX edition of these Summer Games, it was undoubtedly a great transformation and from then on, it marked what would be the continuous growth of the Paralympic Movement, which once again found itself with an impeccable organizational level, thank you, in good measure, because for the first time there was only one Organizing Committee to deal with the aspects of the two events that focused attention on the Catalan capital for more than a month.
The COOB’92 division had a budget of more than 9,000 million pesetas for these Games, directed by Joan Coll, with almost half contributed by the ONCE Foundation, an organization that played a key role in its organization.
Spain ‘discovered’ sport for the disabled in its greatest expression and the public, from less to more, responded by filling the stands, even exceeding the expectations of both the participants themselves, unaccustomed to feeling both the warmth of the people, and of the organizers. In addition, the athletes were able to compete in the best Olympic venues.
According to data from the Spanish Paralympic Committee, more than 2.3 million people attended these Paralympic Games, 65,000 at an Opening Ceremony on September 3 at the Montjuic Stadium, which repeated the model that had dazzled weeks before, with some symbolic huge white hands that all the spectators waved and a lighting of the cauldron also carried out by the protagonist of July 25, 1992, the goalkeeper Antonio Rebollo, winner after a silver in archery.
At the opening, presided over by HM Queen Sofía, honorary president of the event, the tenors Josep Carreras and Montserrat Caballé and the singer Joan Manuel Serrat and the cosmologist Stephen Hawking sent a message to those present through the video scoreboards. of the stadium where he stressed that the Games represented “an opportunity for improvement” for people with disabilities.
“We are all handicapped in some way. Paralympic athletes we need you, without these Games we cannot think that the party has been successful”, said Mayor Pasqual Maragall, while José María Arroyo, president of the ONCE Foundation, reminded the participants that they were in Barcelona “to show that there are no barriers or limits in sport”. The large Spanish delegation of almost 300 people was led by Javier Salmerón, a Catalan athlete with cerebral palsy.
SANTAMARTA AND COUNT, THE ‘KINGS’
From that day on, the real competition began and, in keeping with the event and its status as host, Spain put in a magnificent performance. Forecasts placed the number of medals aspired to by Spanish athletes at around 70, who four years earlier in Seoul had achieved 43, 18 gold, 13 silver and 12 bronze. But despite the fact that the vast majority had hardly any aid for their preparation, since at that time there was no ADOP Plan, they scored at a high level and exceeded all expectations with 107 medals: 34 gold, 31 silver and 42 bronzes.
Athletics and swimming were the leading sports of the national delegation with 48 and 43 metals respectively, although the athletes added 22 gold medals to the seven of the swimmers. 48 medals were awarded to athletes with visual disabilities, 47 to the physically disabled and 12 to athletes with cerebral palsy. Spain added in nine sports and finished fifth in the medal table behind the United States (175), Germany (171), Great Britain (128) and France (106, but more golds -36-).
And among all the athletes, there were two who stood out, both athletes. Purificación Santamarta, from Burgos, visually impaired in the T11 class and winner of three medals in Seoul (one gold and two silver), won four golds, showing her status as a sprinter by dominating the 100, 200 and 400, and as a middle-distance runner by win the 800. This coupon seller was one of the great legends of Spanish Paralympic sport until the Aragonese swimmer Teresa Perales emerged.
Javier Conde, from Biscay, also shone on the tartan of the Olympic Stadium, who also contributed four gold medals. The physically disabled athlete from the TS4 class was unbeatable in the middle and long distances and climbed to the top of the podium in the 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m in what were also his first Games. Subsequently, he won another five metals until his last participation in Beijing.
Another debutant, the physically disabled swimmer from the Balearic Islands, Xavi Torres, was the protagonist in the Bernat Picornell pool where he left with five medals: a gold in the 4×50 freestyle relay, two silvers in the 150 styles (SM4) and in the 4×50 styles relay and two bronzes in the 50 butterfly (S3) and in the 100 breaststroke (SB3). The Catalan athlete Marcelino Paz and the Guipuzcoan swimmer Arancha González were also protagonists with three gold medals each.
But these great successes were ‘dwarfed’ by the demonstration of the American visually impaired swimmer Trischa Zorn, who won 12 medals, 10 gold and two silver, while her compatriot John Morgan also took ten from the pool, including eight gold . Another American, the athlete Bart Dodson, hung eight golds.
And the party closed on September 14 at the Olympic Stadium with a Closing Ceremony where, as had happened a month before, the prominence was for the music, a magic trick with Petra, the event’s mascot and faithful friend. de Cobi, and a huge fireworks display with which Barcelona put an end to a month and a half of hard work to set the bar high for future Olympic and Paralympic venues.