Friday, December 29, 2006

Book Review: An Olympic Death by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán

An Olympic Death, which first came out in 1991, is set in a pre-Olympic Barcelona, a city far different from the one it was soon to become, with its newly created beach front and the inevitable arrival of cruise ships, turning it into slick, urban tourist attraction. 1991 was an emotionally wrenching year for many of us who lived here as we watched the city being dug up, torn down and rebuilt. Construction work was everywhere you looked; cranes dominated the landscape. At that time the Barceloneta "chiringuitos" (the tattered but colorful open-air restaurants) dotted the beach. You could sit at a wooden table smack on the sand and enjoy an affordable paella year-round (some even provided wool blankets to keep the customers warm in winter). When those were pulled down that, for me, marked the end of an era. Beach dining shifted to the overly priced Olympic Port, which doesn’t even provide a view of the sea in most cases. A hastily and ill-conceived Olympic Village was constructed which looked like standard-issue welfare housing (with apartments selling for extraordinary prices) that within a few years was looking run down. The "community" that was to have grown around this area never developed and is now surrounded by much dead space. A superfluous airport-like mall went up at the other end of the port (trendy bars, including one of the city’s many new Irish bars, and a miniature golf course are located on its terrace rooftop; a McDonald’s and a Ben and Jerry’s sit below.)
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