The back room of the opening ceremony

If it rained, there was no plan B.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
24 July 2022 Sunday 04:57
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The back room of the opening ceremony

If it rained, there was no plan B.

Everything else had been tested and calculated to the millimeter, from the distribution around the Montjuïc ring of the thousands of volunteers who would have to go on stage at a given moment, to the sound of the orchestra and the singers, which was totally pre-recorded , as Josep Pons, then executive musical director of the ceremony, explains. Nobody wanted to play it.

That exciting opening ceremony of the Barcelona Games marked a before and after in the way the world would present the Olympics. But for the organizers it was entering an unknown world: that of macro events. However, what was not lacking were ideas and a sense of dramaturgy. The last thing they would do would be a paramilitary or martial parade.

Pepo Sol, the publicist and partner of the production company Ovideo, who died four years later and is remembered as the beacon of all that, had brought together the great talent of the moment: Bigas Luna, La Fura del Baus, Antoni Miralda, Xavier Mariscal... o Comediants and Tricicle for the closing. Bigas, however, ended up retiring: his inventiveness did not convince the client, the Barcelona'92 Olympic Organizing Committee (COOB'92).

Faced with the vertigo of filling an entire Olympic stadium and the need to pay homage not only to Barcelona and Catalonia, but also to Spain, Europe and the Mediterranean, the Barcelona screenwriter and filmmaker thought, among other things, of making a paella. None of that prospered.

"Bigas proposed paying homage to gastronomy and that the volunteers be dressed as grains of rice, peppers, clams... a helicopter would drop the salt," recalls filmmaker Manuel Huerga, another member of the think tank brought together by Sol y who would replace Bigas in the artistic direction.

“He also proposed releasing a bull in the middle of the stadium and that a white dove land on his head, between the antlers. Between animalists and security issues, nothing was clear. In the end he found a great excuse to leave him, he was going to shoot Jamón Jamón with Bardem and Penélope”.

Huerga assumed command at the age of 33. The recklessness of young people, he says, seeing it in perspective. Ovideo had brought together the most modern and groundbreaking, which delighted Mayor Pasqual Maragall. But he possibly thought that he had to compensate for the rauxa with the seny and he called them to come to terms with the publicist Lluís Bassat. The contest was won ex aequo. The production company Ovideo Bassat Sport would be established.

"Josep Miquel Abad summoned Pepo Sol and me to his office and locked the door from the inside: we did not leave here until we reached an agreement. The jury said that we had three tens each with the ceremonies that we had presented and that they did not want do without any of them," recalls Bassat.

Both Ovideo and Bassat's ideas evolved and some fell. It ended up raising a new ceremony, he says. "It was not easy to come to an agreement, there were even discussions with Bigas Luna. He had very poetic but impossible ideas. How were we going to release a miura in a closed stadium? In addition, we were just trying to be seen differently from the outside. It's a miura, it's the representation of the minotaur,' he told me. If out of a thousand people someone identifies him as a minotaur, I'll make a monument for you, I'd answer."

Periodically, representatives of the Barcelona City Council, the Generalitat and the Spanish Government attended to ensure that their plot was represented. And he reported to the Royal House. Thus, issues such as an eventual whistle for the Spanish national anthem were resolved when the Kings entered the stadium.

The solution was to observe the protocol: when Els segadors sounds you are allowed to move, but with the national anthem you have to stay in one piece. That the first sounded while the monarchs entered would force Els segadors to boo by extension... And if it was directly linked to the anthem, the applause for the Catalan anthem would continue for at least a few moments...

The King and Queen attended, yes, from the start the celebration of Catalan culture, with the sardanista bands in five gigantic Olympic rings to the sound of the tenora. Then came the drums of Calanda del Bajo Aragón in a nod to Buñuel, and the bailaora Cristina Hoyos who, after singing Plácido Domingo I love you, brunette, came out on horseback, a real competition stallion who, by the way, traveled to Barcelona bypassing the restrictions of a horse sickness...

And shrimp? Huerga did not hesitate to go to Ronda looking for him. He was delighted, but he soon fell ill with cancer that would take him three weeks from the event.

Looking at the Mediterranean, there was, in that creative and excited Barcelona, ​​La Fura del Baus, which would build a mechanical Hercules and that Barca Nona that gave its name to the city. An expert in mythology was hired for the occasion, Huerga saw that he had to give the television commentators something to tell and the stadium spectators something to read in the program.

It was clear that, according to legend, the Greek hero commanded nine boats with which he was cleaning the world of evil. An attack left standing only the ninth, which is the one that reached the coast... and crossing the stadium founded Barcino. In addition, La Fura linked him to the war in the Balkans, to pollution and to AIDS. The war? AIDS? The IOC would have preferred positive aspects...

“Pepo Sol had achieved a formidable project. A strength and enthusiasm were transmitted that made props emerge, because we had experience in concerts and moves but of a caliber that had nothing to do with it”, explains Cuqui Pons, director of production of the event.

The success, he adds, was to hire the Australian Ric Birch as executive director, an expert in producing ceremonies who quickly provided the project with a team organization chart and schedule. “With him we discovered that it was essential to schedule the general rehearsal months before, otherwise there was no time to rectify”. Because indeed, the gigantic hoops that crowned the stage ended up collapsing with all its tons of wood in one of those tests. Luckily there was no damage.

Birch not only brought in an expert in moving masses of people like Judich Chabola, for choreographies like “Hello!” initial, but she met with aldermen: many filmmakers but there was no one who dominated the direct. He ended up hiring the councilor of the Liceu, Xesca Llabrés.

“At that time there were no cell phones and I walked the stadium from one end to the other countless times,” recalls Llabrés. At the inauguration there were at least 12,000 volunteers, of which 8,000 were assigned to the Olympic sea that La Fura's boat sailed. And we had timed when they should start moving from the Palau Sant Jordi and other locations. The sad thing is that at the end of their action they had to leave Montjuïc, there wasn't room for everyone". What was incredible was, for example, the way Chabola worked: it distributed the entire stadium in small pieces and, rehearsing only one, achieved the "We had never seen it before," confesses Llabrés.

One of the difficulties was getting the volunteers – who went to look for the Catalan associative world – out to the stadium. The narrowness of the entrances, the tiny warm-up tunnel... the stadium was not prepared for so many masses. In the choreography of the soles, the points could not pass through the lintel and accessed horizontally. La Fura's boat was a slug that only unfurled its sails and oars when it reached the outside, and even so, the day before, in the general rehearsal, it collided with some boxes that had been left incorrectly placed and was stranded at the door . “We were livid”, remembers Àlex Ollé

“If we were to do it again, I would bet on doing it during the day again –says furero Carlus Padrissa– . The tendency to make it nocturnal makes it Eurovision. Abusing virtuality is fine when Isabel II leaves the helicopter with 007. If not, she misses the live performance of the theater and the Mediterranean ritual”.

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