The opening ceremony for the People’s Olympiad was due to take place at this stadium on 19 July 1936, but was suspended due to the Fascist military uprising. Barcelona had decided to stage its own Olympics, which several countries had agreed to attend, in protest against the organisation of the Berlin Games, which Hitler used as a platform for Nazi propaganda.
In 1931, Barcelona and Berlin were vying to host the 1936 Olympic Games. However, the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic and news of riots across the country did not offer sufficient guarantees to members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who selected Berlin, which had become the capital of the Third Reich in 1933 with the Nazi party’s rise to power. For this reason, Barcelona organised a People’s Olympiad – an event created in 1921 at the initiative of the working classes – as an alternative to the Berlin Games. The goal was to spread the values of fraternity among the people through sport, and the initiative had a clear anti-fascist and inter-classist nature. This Olympiad was financed by the Government of Catalonia, the Spanish and French governments, and also received the backing of numerous Catalan sports, cultural and social associations.
On 19 July 1936, in Montjuïc stadium – designed by the architect Pere Domènech for the 1929 Universal Exposition – preparations were complete for the official opening of the People’s Olympiad; however, the outbreak of the military coup against the Republic that day put an end to the event. In light of the new circumstances, some 200 athletes, in gratitude for the warm welcome they had received from the public, offered their support to the authorities to defend the Republic, even joining the citizen militias and enlisting in the columns that headed for the Aragon front. They were the first foreign soldiers before the creation of the International Brigades.
During the Civil War, Montjuïc stadium was used by the Central Committee for Refugee Aid as a shelter for those fleeing fascist repression in the areas in which the military coup had triumphed. During the Franco regime, the stadium was little used, with some exceptions, such as the Mediterranean Games in 1955. In the 1970s, it was to be demolished but public pressure saved it from this fate. For the celebration of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, it was fully renovated and the façades of 1929 were conserved. Since 2001, it bears the name of the Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium to commemorate the President of the Government of Catalonia executed by the Franco regime.
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