Barcelona 1992: 25 years on

The Paralympic Games that changed the Movement forever 03 Sep 2017
para athletes compete in their sport

It's 25 years since the iconic Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games.

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Twenty-five years ago, the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games opened at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium, with 65,000 spectators watching from the tribunes.

There are many reasons why they are widely considered as one of the most successful Paralympics ever and a catalyst for the growth of the Movement. A deep legacy, top-level organisation and packed stadiums are only some of them.

“Barcelona 1992 changed the Movement forever,” said IPC President Sir Philip Craven.

The Catalan public turned out en-masse, with a record 1.5 million spectators filling the stadiums. It was also the first time the Paralympics benefitted from daily live domestic TV coverage, with a cumulative TV audience of 7 million.

Sir Philip added: “The Games were first class in so many areas. The venues were packed full of passionate sports fans, there was live TV coverage for the first time, the sport and organisation was fantastic, and hosting the Paralympics led to significant improvements in accessibility which have continued to this day.

The 1992 Paralympics also triggered a change in the mentality of Spanish society. If people with impairment could achieve such feats in sports, then they could do anything.

A total of 2,999 athletes, 2,300 men and 699 women, from 83 countries competed in 489 medal events across 16 sports, and 279 world records were set.

Swimmer Trischa Zorn left Barcelona as the most decorated Paralympian after winning 10 golds and two silvers to help the USA finish top of the medals table with 75 golds. Germany (61 golds) and Great Britain (40) completed the top three.

“The Olympic and Paralympic Games transformed Barcelona. With the construction of the Village and the Olympic Port, the city centre opened to the sea,” said Sir Philip.

Lasting legacy

The Barcelona 1992 Paralympics was largely financed by the ONCE Foundation and the last Games to be organised by the International Co-ordinating Committee (ICC), after the foundation of the IPC in 1989.

“The Organising Committee for the Barcelona 1992 Games, with the backing of city and Catalan authorities, and the ONCE Foundation, made the Paralympics a stunning success, a success that acted as a strong foundation from which the Paralympic Movement could build. I think few would argue that Barcelona 1992 had more impact on the Paralympic Movement than any Games before or after.

“The support of the then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch was also crucial to the success of the Barcelona 92 Paralympics and, from that time on, the IOC and IPC started to develop a relationship that continues and benefits both parties to this day.

“When a city wins the right to stage the Games, it cannot make absolutely everything accessible in the seven years it has to plan and prepare for the Opening Ceremony. Barcelona had a good go, however, but what has struck me the most is that accessibility improvements have continued ever since the Games finished.

“When I came here in 2002, I didn’t realise until leaving just how easy it had been for me to get around in my wheelchair. Accessibility is at its best when you do not notice it and that’s what Barcelona now provides.

“Barcelona can now be regarded as one of the most accessible cities in the world and this is a direct result of the fantastic Games we enjoyed back in 1992.”