One question traverses this study: Can we find in the conjuncture of Olympic Barcelona any directives for some type of urban and historical change? Are the immaterial production of new ideologies and the material reconstruction of the city exhausted in their own realization, or do they offer us guidance for future transformative politics?
The ideologies of postmodern Barcelona have provided a singular occasion to articulate a critical encounter between Marxism and deconstruction that has, perhaps, resulted in three main propositions. First, the question of spectrality. In Barcelona, the simulacrum of the Olympic spectacle turned every political figure and every social agent into specters (or, to quote Derrida, into the “fantastic, ghostly, ’synthetic,’ ’prosthetic,’ virtual happenings” [Specters 63] of our contemporary media society). On the one hand, this spectralization cancelled the access to the past, and even the access to any sense of history; a phenomenon constitutive of postmodernity but particularly detectable in a post-Franco Spain that was striving to forget the dictatorship years. But, on the other hand, it opened up the possibility of historicizing the politics of the Olympic spectacle by bringing to light their inherent spectrality. Marxism understands this spectrality as a consequence of the full commodification of the social, and deconstruction conceives it as a “hauntology” (Specters 51) that replaces the very possibility of an ontology of the present. Our task alternates between these two critiques: the critique of capitalism and the critique of ontology.
Secondly, Barcelona's urban cosmopolitanism. The city's industrial production of cosmopolitan ideologies must be read as a clever marketing strategy to attract global capital in the form of multinational companies, tourists, conventions, cruises, study abroad programs, and other specialized services of the economy of knowledge. However, the content of these ideologies can be radicalized toward the redefinition, or even the full implosion, of the nation-state. Two conditions of possibility of cosmopolitanism are also its conditions of impossibility: its enclosure within state law (as seen in Kant's foundational definition of cosmopolitanism as “rights”) and its intrinsic connection with the logic of the capitalist market (Marx and Engels’ “cosmopolitan character” of the world market). These two limits – the restrictions of state law and the unbounded logic of the market – remain contradictory to each other and make true cosmopolitanism ultimately impossible. The figure of the undocumented immigrant painfully embodies this contradiction.
Perhaps in contradiction with the previous analysis of the urban renewal of Barcelona and its correlation with postmodern phenomena such as the shopping mall, Disneyworld, or Las Vegas’ theme hotels, this chapter explores whether Barcelona can represent an exemplary model for contemporary cities, and even for the city of the future. My main question is: Does this urban model contain any transformative contents worth retrieving? If so, can this model be applied to other cities? To what extent was this transformation an irreproduc-ible case determined by specific historical circumstances; and to what extent is it transposable and exemplary? In short, what are the model components (if there are any) of the Barcelona model?
The renewal of Barcelona soon became internationally praised. As I mentioned in the previous chapter, in 1990 the city was awarded the Prince of Wales Prize in Urban Design of Harvard's Department of Architecture and, in 1998, the city hall received the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). As sociologist Patrick Le Galès asserts, Barcelona unquestionably became a model for European cities: “The example of Barcelona has been used innumerable times by Europe's entire stock of urban elites and consultants. The joint activity of urban restructuring and organizing of the 1992 Olympic Games has led to a view of the city as a model of success to be copied and envied” (210).
Also, Barcelona plays an exemplary role in the collective proposal Towards an Urban Renaissance, in which the architectural team Urban Task Force discusses various guidelines for the regeneration of British cities. In the introduction to the book, after a foreword written by mayor Pasqual Maragall, Richard Rogers, chairman of the group, states that “[i]n the quality of our urban design and strategic planning, we are probably 20 years behind places like Amsterdam and Barcelona” (7). Or, to mention one last example, Charles Landry's The Art of City-Making also praises Barcelona's renewal and presents it as an exemplary model (361-8).
It seems evident that the values of the Barcelona model-urban compactness, good readability, mixture of uses, and the promotion of public spaces – can effortlessly be embraced by other European cities, which share similar urban structures and face similar challenges regarding their new functions as global cities.
Barcelona's Olympic Vocation
In the opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympic Games, Barcelona's mayor Pasqual Maragall began his welcoming speech by retrieving an uncanny specter of the past. He referred to the city's attempt in 1936 to organize an alternative Games to the Nazi Olympics held in Berlin that same year. He also alluded to the president of Catalonia's autonomous government of the Gener-alitat de Catalunya, Lluís Companys, who would have inaugurated these Games if they had taken place. Maragall's exact words were “Senyors, ciutadants del món: fa cinquanta-sis anys s'havia de fer una Olimpíada Popular en aquest estadi de Montjuïc. El nom del president d'aquesta Olimpíada Popular és gravat allà dalt, a l'antiga Porta de la Marató. Es deia Lluís Companys i era el president de la Generalitat de Catalunya” ’Gentlemen, citizens of the world: fifty-six years ago, the Popular Olympics were supposed to open in this stadium of Montjuïc. The name of the president of these Popular Olympics is stamped up there, on the old Door of the Marathon. His name was Lluís Companys and he was the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya’ (Cerimònia inauguració, TV3).
The purpose of these Popular Olympics was to organize a competition for the people against the Olympics that intended to glorify Hitler and the Aryan race. A tradition of alternative Games had already started in 1921 in Prague, when a group of mostly European unions and worker's associations created the Red Games in order to counteract the too aristocratic and elitist official Games founded in 1896 by Baron Pierre de Courbertin. Following Prague, the Red Games were celebrated in Frankfurt in 1925, in Moscow in 1928, and in Vienna in 1931. But, as Xavier Pujadas and Carles Santacana explain, the Barcelona Popular Olympics of 1936 were not exactly a new edition of the Red Games. Instead, multiple sport and civic associations, with the support of the Republican government of president Companys, organized them with the specific goal of counteracting the Nazi Games (79).
Opposition movements against the Berlin Games had already emerged in the United States in 1933, when the Amateur Athletic Union decided to boycott them for not allowing the participation of Jewish athletes.
Acrucial element of Olympic Barcelona was the major urban renewal implemented by the city hall. This transformation not only illustrated or complemented these municipal politics, but essentially embodied them. The spatial transformation of the city became the most visible component of Barcelona's euphoric politics during the 1980s.
The urban renewal has also been the most studied and lauded aspect of contemporary Barcelona. The general admiration that it has received in the last 20 years has generated considerable bibliography in urban and architectural studies. Even though most studies combine a variety of approaches, this bibliography can be roughly divided into three types. First, the renewal has been described as a unique and successful project that can represent a model for other cities; and, indeed, as I explain in Chapter Four, many urban planners and city halls have referred to Barcelona as their model. Second, more critical accounts have examined the transformation from urbanistic, sociological, anthropological, or journalistic disciplines; these texts have looked at the negative effects and darker sides of the renewal. Third, a few texts analyze the renewal in relation to capitalism and the new global order from a more theoretical standpoint.
My aim here is to proceed in two directions. First, I depart from this third critical corpus to relate Barcelona's transformation to a set of concepts and events such as postmodernism, Critical Regionalism, the generic city, Las Vegas’ theme hotels, and Disneyworld's EPCOT. After looking over the urban history of modern Barcelona, this chapter undertakes a close reading of the programmatic texts by municipal urban designer, Oriol Bohigas. These texts laid the theoretical foundation of the remodeling plan, which was conceived as a set of specific architectural interventions in the existing realities of the street, the square, the neighborhood, and the park. What most interests me is the general city model put forward by Bohigas, a model that promotes urban compactness, good readability, mixture of uses, and public spaces. In this respect, the connection of this model with some general concepts and emblematic phenomena of postmodernity can help us further explore the structural determinations that configured, sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, this historical conjuncture.
Woody Allen's 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona depicts Barcelona as a charming and cosmopolitan city. Foreigners find its fusion of European sophistication and Mediterranean lifestyle irresistible. The city is so appealing that it seems to have engendered the series of sexual encounters, romantic scenes, and artistic impulses experienced by the characters. It is true that, given the empty aestheticism and lack of social significance of his recent films, Allen could have set the movie in, say, Bagdad, and still manage to portray a group of affluent individuals only worried about their sexual dissatisfaction and their cultural taste. However, Barcelona seemed to serve especially well as a delightful and nonconflictive setting.
The enchanting powers of Barcelona that attract Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall, together with millions of visitors every year, are the result of a specific historical process. During the 1980s, and in preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games, Barcelona's city hall launched an extensive transformation of the city at all levels. Under the leadership of socialist mayor Pasqual Maragall, the municipal government undertook a process of “city-building” that profoundly altered the social, urbanistic, economic, cultural, and political spheres of the city. The transformation of Barcelona did not consist in a mere renewal of its waterfront, the gentrification of an old neighborhood, or the promotion of its cultural assets, even though these elements were also a central part of it. The transformation consisted rather in the articulation of a municipal political project that aimed to have an effect on each social sphere of the city while implementing a comprehensive urban renovation.
This transformation was motivated by the emergence of a new economy based on tourism, real estate investment, and the culture industry. When in the 1970s and 1980s most Western industrial cities began to see manufacturing relocated in Third World countries, and the globalization of production started to be a reality, Barcelona adjusted to this new situation rather quickly and became specialized in the industries of tourism, real estate and culture. While Barcelona's economy remained quite diversified, these three industries, which grew in close correlation to each other, took on a dominant role in the transformation of the city.
The unusual speed of the city's adaptation to a new economy can be attributed to two factors.
This chapter analyzes three specific ideological aspects of the politics of postmodern Barcelona. While the previous chapter contextualized the 1992 Olympic Games in the global moment of the end of history, here I focus on the calculated use of the notions of the Mediterranean, Europe, and the city to deploy a specific hegemonic definition of Barcelona. I will describe this ideological redefinition as Barcelona's “urban cosmopolitanism.” Therefore, while Chapter One inscribed our object of study in a temporal frame, this chapter focuses on the spatial imaginary of Barcelona's euphoric politics during the Olympic years. My aim is to undertake a critique of some of the specific ideologies that composed this imaginary. (In Chapters Three and Four, I will inspect the physical embodiment of these new imagined spatialities in the urban renewal of the city.)
Two main sociological studies have examined at great length the political discourses at work in Olympic Barcelona. John Hargreaves’ Freedom for Catalonia? analyzes the nationalist conflicts between the Spanish state and the Catalan government of the Generalitat and, less directly, the conflicts between these two and the city hall. Hargreaves describes the multiple battles that took place during the organization of the Games regarding the display of symbols, emblems, flags, languages, and protocols. He also shows how, in spite of continuing mutual antipathies, the battles for the Catalanization versus the Spanishi-zation of the Games eventually found a quite satisfactory compromise for all parts, as the Olympic ceremonies and other main events included an equal number of Catalan and Spanish identifying marks.
Donald McNeill's Urban Change and the European Left: Tales from the New Barcelona perfectly complements Hargreaves’ book, and focuses not on the nationalist conflicts, but rather on the “citizen-based pragmatism” (91) of mayor Pasqual Maragall, which created a model for the new European Left. McNeill's comprehensive study examines the relation between Maragall's urban politics and the numerous neighborhood movements and popular demands that emerged during the transition to democracy. His analysis demonstrates how it became impossible to decide whether this relation was one of cooperation, or whether the city hall subtly coopted and deactivated the political claims of the people.
Before France was torn apart by the First World War it experienced the golden age of the Belle Epoque. Following the political and social upheavals of the Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s, which had for a time seemed almost to threaten the safety of the Republican regime, destabilized by attacks from the extreme right and doubting the validity of its own political, moral and social principles, France entered a period of relative calm and prosperity. As well as the success of the movement of ‘Republican defence’ in favour of the Republic that strengthened the regime around the turn of the century, a pause in the long-standing guerre franco-française between left and right over clericalism and anticlericalism seemed to have been reached with the separation of Church and state in 1905. However, it was also a period of change socially, economically, culturally and politically, and in geo-political terms, the years before 1914 were marked by growing concerns over France's place in the world and over its relationship with the old enemy, Germany.
As well as a Belle Epoque in art and culture – the period saw a flowering of creativity in music, painting, literature and the decorative arts – the early twentieth century was marked by rapid economic development in terms of accelerating industrialization and the social changes concomitant with the growth of industry such as the rise of a significant working class and a growing urbanization of society. The historian Francis Démier describes France as having experienced a ‘belle époque de l’économie’ as well as the better-known era of prosperity and creativity that the term generally references (Démier, 2000). And Démier also reminds us that France during this period was the crucible of a new culture brought by technology, industry and the modernization of society towards ‘une culture de masse’.
The confidence of France during the early years of the Belle Epoque was symbolized most strongly by its hosting of the Exposition Universelle in 1900. As one of the first truly global ‘mega-events’, the Exposition Universelle showcased France's genius to the world. It was hosted by the ville lumière, Paris, and housed in the novel and avant-garde surroundings of the Grand and Petit palais just off the Champs-Elysées.
The destruction and disruption of the First World War naturally impeded the development of cycling overall – in terms of competition, industry, media and everyday use – in France, although the links between light arms manufacture and the cycle industry that were discussed in the previous chapter meant that newly expanded factories, for example, were in a position to produce more bicycles than before, if the demand was there. In fact, in 1920 there were 4.3 million bicycles in France recorded by the authorities. By 1923 this figure had risen to 5.8 million, and by 1926 there were 7.1 million bicycles declared. But between 1926 and 1936 (when 7.5 million bicycles were recorded), this growth in ownership slowed and stagnated under the triple influence of a saturation of the market, public interest in watching rather than doing sport for leisure, and economic recession (Gerbod, 1986: 69–79). The cultural, social and philosophical reaction to the horrors of the war that gave the name les années folles to the 1920s, in recognition of a general interest in finding distraction rather than serious activities, evidenced itself in a popular enthusiasm for professional sports, fed and encouraged by the sporting media and late professionalizing sporting disciplines such as football. During the 1930s, a period in France as elsewhere in Europe marked by economic depression, social hardship and the rise of political extremism, although household incomes suffered, affecting the purchase of cycles, the impetus given by the Popular Front to sport and leisure in 1936 – as France began to recover from slump – encouraged bicycle ownership, which reached 8.8 million in 1939, despite the more than doubling of the bicycle tax in 1938 from 12 francs to 25 francs (Gerbod, 1986: 69–79).
During the 1920s and 1930s French society and politics became progressively polarized between the traditional visions for France proposed by Left and Right that had marked the French polity since the Revolution: Agulhon (1993: 178–213), for example, describes the period as one of ‘disillusion and dissent’.
At the conclusion of this rapid and necessarily selective overview of cycling and the bicycle in France, it seems sensible to attempt to draw together some tentative general remarks about how this technology of transport and its varied uses can be interpreted to tell us something about French culture and society. Following the framework set out in the Introduction, where we suggested a conceptualization of cycling and the bicycle in France that necessarily had to find appropriate space for the Tour de France while at the same time addressing the wider and deeper complexity of the issues at stake through the themes of leisure, sport, industry, utility, and identity, we shall here briefly revisit these topics. We shall also consider how the chronology of analysis provided in the previous eight chapters fits with the developing story of cycling and the bicycle in French culture and society.
Cycling as leisure, sport, industry, utility
Leisure, in various forms, has been a key theme of the discussions of cycling in the previous chapters. Those who dislike the prominence of the Tour in the mental imagery of French cycling would stress that cycling for most people in France is – albeit against the background of a memorial awareness of the Tour de France – about leisure, recreation and associated forms of sociability. As we have seen in the discussion of cycling during the 1920s and 1930s, the capacity of cycling to afford personal mobility and the opportunity of leisure activities has been a key element of people's relationship with the bicycle. Writing about the Popular Front, Benigno Cacérès suggests rightly that ‘le tandem est resté l'image de 1936. Il a valeur de symbole. Il incarne le passage à la civilisation de loisirs’ (Cacérès, 1981: 33). Although in a future study it might be interesting to unpack a little more the iconicity of the tandem for the Popular Front's ‘invention’ of loisirs, cycling has enduringly been associated with leisure and freedom from constraints imposed by established patterns and modes of transport or by social mores.
Cycling of all kinds in France during the 2000s has been the subject of increased interest from citizens and the state. The cycle industry has benefited from a growing uptake of cycling as recreational sport, transport/ personal mobility and recreational leisure. And professional cycle sport, in the form of the Tour de France, has maintained its hold on the popular imagination, despite frequent suspicions that the endemic drug-taking of the 1990s that culminated in the ‘Tour of Shame’ in 1998 could sound the death-knell of the event. In 2003 no less official an institution than the august Bibliothèque nationale de France at Tolbiac hosted a conference to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Tour. The new-found popularity of the Tour was in part due to the heavy mediatization – by L'Equipe and by most other French newspapers as well as other media – of the phenomenal success of the US rider and cancer-survivor Lance Armstrong, whose seven wins in the event inspired admiration, suspicion and resentment in equal measure among sports commentators, fans and the general public. The French public avidly consumed books by or about Armstrong (Armstrong, Jenkins and Renaudo, 2000; Armstrong, Jenkins and Girard, 2003; Ballester and Walsh, 2006; Laborde, 2006; Ducoin, 2009; Ledanff, 2010). If the ambivalence over Armstrong's domination of pro-racing's flagship event reflected the enduring French love–hate relationship with the United States since 1945 and before, it was also driven by misgivings about his often-alleged but never-proven use of performance-enhancing ‘preparation’ (something of a new concern, historically, given the long history of doping in pro-cycling) and by a distaste for his business-like method of winning, deemed by some to be cynical and disrespectful to the traditions and ethics of sport. Thus what we can call the ‘Armstrong Affair’ of the 2000s mobilized concerns around the ‘purity’ of sport similar to those which in the 1880s and 1890s had exercised defenders of amateurism against professionalism, of pacing against individual riding or other principles of fair competition.
French Cycling: A Social and Cultural History aims to provide a balanced and detailed analytical survey of the complex leisure activity, sport and industry that is cycling in France. Identifying key events, practices, stake-holders and institutions in the history of French cycling, the volume presents an interdisciplinary analysis of how cycling has been significant in French society and culture since the late nineteenth century.
Structuring and writing this book has been rather challenging, principally because of the potentially vast scope of material and debate, given the multi-faceted nature of ‘cycling’, and indeed, the chronological range of the period during which cycling has been significant, in whatever ways and in whatever forms to individuals or groups of any kind, in France. It could be argued that providing a fully comprehensive and fully balanced treatment of cycling in France since, say, the 1870s would require a team of researchers, a multi-volume series and the best part of an academic lifetime! Based on the view that few publishers would accept such a project, the approach in this treatment has thus been necessarily selective. In the paragraphs that follow we explain the approach of the book, starting with the question: ‘What to do with the Tour de France?’
The Tour is cycling, but cycling is not just the Tour
A significant and recurring problem in planning and writing this book has been a cycling-related phenomenon that most people – if asked to say one thing they knew about cycling in France – would readily suggest as the obvious topic: the Tour de France. Everyone, in France and outside, knows about the Tour de France. This simple fact reflects its dominant centrality to, arguably, almost all French understandings of what cycling is, and is not. There is perhaps a tendency among some British and American experts on the sociology and socioeconomics of cycling to consider the Tour de France as – just – a race, and as one example among many of the specialized activity of cycling as competition, and professional, elite, commercialized competition at that.
France in the 1890s was politically relatively stable, even though the new Third Republic – in the form of the ‘conservative Republic’ defined by Thiers as the form of regime least likely to divide the French people – was still challenged by threats from the extreme right, and was shaken to the core by the national drama of the Dreyfus Affair (1894–99). But the threat of a coup d’état from General Boulanger had been avoided in the late 1880s; parliamentary democracy seemed established, if occasionally questioned. Economically and socially, although France was still concerned at its weakness and slowness of development compared with Britain and particularly Germany, the country was beginning, in the mid-1890s at least, to recover from the economic depression suffered in the 1880s (Démier, 2000: 409). Structures, thinking and technologies in industry were modernizing and facilitating France's economic and social transformation, even though the real explosion in the growth of the economy would not occur until the early years of the twentieth century or even the post-1945 period. Rather than being found in the motors of development of previous years, such as the building of the railways, or the urban building sector, or state investment in general, the drivers of growth during the 1890s were to be found in the renewal of industrial infrastructures and in household consumption. A particular success of French industry during the 1890s was its ability to adapt and adopt the products of the ‘industrial avant garde’ (Démier, 2000: 411–13) at this time, of which one of the most important was the automobile. Building on the vibrancy of the bicycle industry in the 1880s, as French production regained the early dynamism of the late 1860s that had been swept away by the disruptions of the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune, the industrial manufacturing base responded to ongoing demand for bicycles as well as moving into the production of motorcycles and motor cars during the 1890s. With increasing prosperity, increasing literacy, the developing strength of the bourgeoisie and the arriving significance of the industrial working classes in terms of the consumption of products and services of all kinds, sports in general – and cycling in particular – found an environment propitious for their growth.
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