I stopped following sports news for quite some time. After the college and university years, the social pressure of having to keep up with soccer or basketball disappeared for me. However, I have a lot of memories associated with match days and sporting events, despite not remembering the names of any players and just a couple of results. In a column, Leila Guerriero wrote that memory triggers rare moments, as happened to her after hearing the news of Maradona’s death: she immediately evoked a place in the United States, where she had been years ago, when she learned that Maradona had been expelled from a World Cup. I also remember with total clarity the boy’s house where I saw the 2010 World Cup final, and the absolute fury that possessed me when the city exploded in screams after Iniesta’s goal. A T-shirt from the national team comes to mind, a gift for my 18th birthday and the details of the restaurant where they gave it to me, as if they were memories of another life.
It is difficult to distance yourself from sport when you were born in Barcelona in 1992. The first times I showed my ID to buy tobacco there was always someone who, upon seeing my date of birth, pointed out excitedly: “You are Olympian!” I grew up hearing stories from the Games. They are so anchored to the city and its urban vocabulary that you integrate them into everyday life without even realizing it: you go to a concert at the Olympic stadium or go down to have a drink at the Olympic village. Anyone who has grown up in Barcelona has heard the chronicles of the transformation that it experienced in the nineties, and stories of the emotion that united the people of Barcelona during the preparations that summer. My grandmother is still moved remembering the journey of the Olympic flame from Antonio Rebollo’s arrow to the cauldron in Montjuic. And so much Barcelona, the duet song of Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé, as the generational anthem Friends forever, are part of the soundtrack of any wedding in the city. My parents, who had been living in the United States, flew back to Barcelona with my pregnant mother just in time for the summer of the Olympics. As the pregnancy was very advanced, they made a stopover in Atlanta, a city that would host the next Games in 1996. I was born at the end of September, so I lived the Cobi summer from my mother’s womb. And although I am not an adult with a life closely linked to sports, I have always loved hearing the stories of the year that changed Barcelona.
When I read Open, the splendid memoir of tennis player Andre Agassi, I was totally fascinated, despite never having seen an entire tennis match. I didn’t need to know what a set is to understand the parallels between life and sport, or in the case of Agassi, between life and tennis. «Advantage, service, lack, break, nothing, the basic elements of tennis are the same as those of everyday life, because every game is a life in miniature. Even the structure of tennis, the way the pieces fit into each other like Russian dolls, reproduces the structure of today. It reminds me of the way in which seconds turn into minutes and minutes into hours, ”explains the tennis player himself.
After all, sport is still another way of measuring life. During the time you watch a game, you surrender to the uncertainty of chance, of not knowing the final result, and the ceremony of the moment allows an illusion of a fleeting community that is very difficult to replicate. There is something very different about the excitement of an Olympic Games summer. I think about whether in a decade I will remember where I was during the sporting events of 2021. And I know that I will always smile and nod with pride when someone asks me: “Barcelona 92? In other words, you are an Olympian? ». I am.
Leticia Vila-Sanjuán is an editor and lives wishing that one day her life will resemble a novel.