Gabriel Masfurroll, Barcelona 28 July 2022
Image: Montjuic Olympic Ring, ROSER VILALLONGA
I was born in Barcelona. At that time it was a grey, dull and sad city, but it had not ceased to be a driving force for the country. The entrepreneurial and business DNA of the Catalans had attracted thousands of emigrants from all over Spain and from Catalonia itself, who not only helped it to prosper, but also improved it. However, the political, social and economic crisis, especially after the post-war period and, later, during the 1970s and 1980s, brought it to a standstill. But it’s never too late if it’s too good to be true.
For many years, Barcelona had been holding a wild card, the Olympic Games. Although some resisted, others were visionary and audacious and mobilised the city and then the whole country. Juan Antonio Samaranch was a key player on this path, as was Narcís Serra, a man of high sights and long lights, and the “rauxa” of Pasqual Maragall. With them, together with great professionals and a city and a country that were committed, we not only managed to organise the 1992 Games, but also to astonish the world and make them the best in history. Thanks to them, history changed. The city improved incredibly, Barcelona became a world brand and we have lived 25 splendid years despite some crises that have hit us along the way.
Since then, Barcelona has continued to live off 92, creating relevant actions and activities, but without renewing the model. Then came the pandemic. A moment of profound change that the city could have taken advantage of to create value with driving projects, based on science and research, on its robust entrepreneurial DNA and, especially, on public-private collaboration, laying the foundations of a new model to face the 21st century with guarantees. Instead, it has tried to invent a city model in fits and starts, based on trial and error, and missing several opportunities that would have been tremendously positive.
One example is the project to expand El Prat Airport, undoubtedly a way to turn Barcelona once and for all into the world hub that we have been calling for for years, and to do so with “seny”, which is how Maurici Lucena and his entire team proposed it. But despite the missed opportunities, we have seen other projects flourish that allow us to look to the future with a certain optimism. This is the case of the magnificent work that Pere Navarro and Blanca Sorigué and their team are doing discreetly at the CZFB. In this regard, I invite you to discover the plans to create a future training centre linked to the new economy in the former headquarters of the Post Office, or DFactory Barcelona, a tractor project aimed at attracting talent and investment to Barcelona in the field of Industry 4.0. Meanwhile, there is other great news, such as the announcement that the legendary America’s Cup will come to Barcelona thanks to the efforts and determination of Barcelona Global and the Port of Barcelona which, with Damià Calvet at the helm, is regaining its leadership in the Mediterranean.
Barcelona can occupy an important geostrategic position in the coming years in terms of logistics. Possibly the best news has been the capacity to bring together different public and private actors, and to unite the different administrations and political sensibilities around a project that fills a city that was living in a depressed atmosphere with new optimism. Add to all this projects such as the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, or the Amid project, which is the extension of Parc del Alba, whose Synchrotron is another of the scientific marvels we have.
And what can we say about areas as important worldwide as health in its broadest sense, including healthcare, research and knowledge transfer. We receive patients from many countries, and our universities are globally relevant despite their economic hardships. We also have three of the best business schools in the world, and we must retain them.
Nor can we forget the sports industry, where we must regain leadership. We are once again fighting for a winter Olympic Games, despite the fact that the Cainite struggles could bring it to ruin. Barcelona is an example of a city with top-level sports organisations and a magnificent network of sports centres and venues.
In short, few cities in the world have such an ideal ecosystem. Barcelona has all the ingredients to be a leading metropolis, disruptive and a driving force in different fields, an open and universal city. As Cervantes wrote, Barcelona is “an archive of courtesy, a refuge for foreigners, a hospital for the poor, a homeland for the brave, a vengeance for the offended and a pleasant correspondence of firm friendships, unique in place and beauty”. But to achieve this, we must stop defending ideologies that are all too often misguided and seek the common good together, with generosity and harmony.
We need a driving force, and that is us, the citizens themselves. And all I ask of politicians is that they listen to all those who want a better Barcelona and pay more attention to those who perhaps make less noise, but who love their city just as much or more, because we will do much better. We must govern to improve the city, not to win votes. And let us never forget what the Italian merchants said a few centuries ago, “Si la bossa sona, Barcelona és bona”. Let’s make “la bossa” fill up again in an equitable and fair way, with leadership, criteria and values. Let’s get down to work for the good of all of us, especially the new generations. Let’s leave them a worthy legacy. But this will only happen if we believe in it and go hand in hand. Together we will go further.