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The ACP countries at the Barcelona Olympic Games

by Francisco GRANELL

The Olympic Games may always have been regarded as a world event, but this description is particularly appropriate in the case of the 25th Olympiad which was held in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, Spain, from 25 July to 9 August.

These Games, the first since the fall of the Iron Curtain, are also the first in recent years not to have suffered from boycotts or political controversies. Spain has no enemies and it is a country which is somewhat 'in fashion' at the moment. In 1992, in addition to the Olympics, it has also staged the fifth centenary celebrations of the 'discovery' of America by Christopher Columbus, and the Universal Exposition in Seville.

The Mediterranean city of Barcelona, which is Spain's industrial capital, welcomed the sporting representatives of 172 countries. This was a record level of participation for the modern Olympics, which were founded by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1896.

The Spanish government, the Catalonia regional government and the Barcelona city authorities made significant infrastructural investments for the occasion, designed to create an appropriate environment for all the sporting events and to provide suitable living conditions for almost 11 000 athletes and 5000 technical staff who came together in Barcelona for the Games. The investments included airport modernisation, Olympic villages and urban motorways.

The work done by Barcelona 92's Olympic Steering Committee (COOB '92), which was set up for the purpose of organising the 25th Olympiad, ensured that by the end of the Games a balanced budget had been achieved. Excessive investments and expenditure - of the kind which led some previous Olympics to record substantial deficits - were avoided. The overall economic impact of the Olympics has been calculated at some ECU 10 000 million.

There was, moreover, almost worldwide coverage of the Games by the major television networks and newspapers. It is calculated that 3 500 million television viewers tuned in to the opening ceremony held at the Montjuic Olympic stadium. This is located in an area which became known as the «Olympic Ring» on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean together with other sporting venues such as the Sant Jordi multi-sports centre, the Picornell pool and the Sports University (where the Secretariat of the Association of European Institutes of Physical Education and Sport has its headquarters).

Under the symbolic Olympic figures represented by the logo and mascot (the dog COBI) the athletes competed in 25 official and three demonstration sports.

The European Community was well represented at the Barcelona Games. The President of the Commission, Jacques Delors, and a number of Commissioners joined King Juan Carlos I of Spain and the President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, at the opening ceremony. Part of the ceremony was devoted to underlining the importance of Europe for Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain. It is worth recalling that the Mayor of Barcelona is current President of the Assembly of the Council of Municipalities and Regions of Europe and that the President of the autonomous government of Catalonia (Generalitat) is President of the Assembly of European Regions.

All twelve Community Member States took part in the Barcelona Olympics and ten of them won medals.

The 24 ACP medallists at the Barcelona Olympic Games

Sixty African, Caribbean and Pacific countries associated with the European Community under the Lomonvention also sent teams of varying sizes to take part. Some of these were assisted under the programme run by the International Olympic Committee which is designed to help developing countries take part in the Games.

At the Seoul Olympics in 1988, the athletes of five ACP countries (Kenya, Suriname, Jamaica, Senegal and Djibouti) won Olympic medals. Barcelona saw an improved performance, with athletes from eight ACP countries mounting the winners' podium (see table). In 1988, the ACP states obtained 14 Olympic medals. In Barcelona, the figure rose to 24, of which 21 were on an individual basis and the remaining three were in team events. The team successes were for the Nigerian men in the 4 x 100 metres (silver), the Nigerian women over the same distance (bronze) and Ghana's football team, which took a bronze after beating Australia 1-0 at the Barcelona Football Club stadium.

There were two ACP athletes who each won two silver medals on the track. The Jamaican, Juliet Cuthbert, came second in the 100 and 200 metres while Frank Fredericks of Namibia performed the same feat in the men's sprint events.

Kenyan athletes Mathew Birir, Patrick Sang and William Mutwol achieved a historic clean sweep for their country in taking first, second and third places in the 3000 metres steeplechase.

As mentioned above, there was a double success for the Nigerian sprint relay teams. In the men's 4 x 100 metres, the Nigerian quartet came second to the United States in a race which saw the latter establish a new world record in an incredible 37.40 seconds. The Nigerian women came third after the United States and the team from the Commonwealth of Independent States (athletes from republics of the former Soviet Union).

The two other gold medals won by ACP athletes were in the men's 800 metres (William Tanui of Kenya) and the women's 10 000 metres (Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia).

From this assessment of ACP participation at the Barcelona Olympics, one clear fact emerges - most of the medals were won in athletics. ACP athletes took three gold, ten silver and seven bronze medals in the stadium as compared with only four elsewhere - two in the boxing arena, one in the swimming pool and one on the football field.

In conclusion, it should be noted that as regards the number of medals won, Kenya came 21st in the unofficial classification of participating countries. Other positions were; Ethiopia (33), Jamaica (38), Nigeria (39), Namibia (41) and the Bahamas, Ghana and Suriname (all 55). Only 64 of the 172 participating countries won medals.

When one considers the World Bank rankings of GDP per capita - Kenya (169), Ethiopia (202), Jamaica (120), Nigeria (185), Namibia (86), Ghana (165) and Suriname (76), one can conclude that all these countries had a very good Olympics in terms of their relative economic position, particularly in a highly professionalised sporting environment dominated nowadays by economic and publicity considerations. Only the Bahamas, which occupies 32nd place in the world's GDP per capita ranking, had a lower medal classification (55th place), but it must be remembered this country is 110th in the world in population terms.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the performance of the European Community. The EC's Member States won a total of 200 medals - 71 gold, 50 silver and 79 bronze. This compares with 112 medals for the CIS and 108 for the United States. These figures allow us to compare the ACP performance with that of the world leaders in the sporting arena, but they also reveal the sporting strength of the Community should the situation ever arise where it enters a single team in Olympic competition.