The tradition of sports in Catalan society has resulted in significant success in international tournaments. Catalan sports people stand out in international competitions such as MotoGP motorbike racing, NBA and the UEFA Champions League.
Why do Catalans say FC Barcelona is more than a club?
Supporting the world-wide famous football team Barça is one of the biggest passions of the Catalans. People from across all generations follow Barça matches and celebrate their victories. The club has won four European Champions Leagues and four UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups.
However, the significance of FC Barcelona extends far beyond sport and has a social and sentimental dimension – the idea of feeling Catalan. As such, it is an important tool for the integration of newcomers to Catalonia. The club is also committed to altruistic causes and since 2008 has signed several collaboration agreements with UNICEF, UNHCR and UNESCO.
Is football the most popular sport?
Yes! Every village and town has its own team. Barcelona is also home to another very successful team, RCD Espanyol, which has twice been runner-up in the UEFA Cup. Catalonia has its own football tournament, the ‘Copa Catalunya’, and its own national team, run by the Catalan Football Federation. At present this team is not recognised by FIFA or UEFA because the Spanish Football Federation opposes its acceptance.
What are the other most popular sports?
Every region has its own sporting tradition and the most played team sports are basketball, water polo, handball and roller hockey. As for individual sports, swimming, tennis, snowboarding, mountain running and athletics are the most popular ones.
Who are currently the most well-known Catalan sportspeople?
The most famous ones are probably Barça players like Piqué and Messi; Xavi, Puyol and Guardiola have always been important and will be forever remembered by Catalan fans and society.
The long-standing passion for motorsport in Catalonia has also thrown up many successful drivers and motorcyclists; last year the three motorbike World Championship Grand Prix classes were all won by Catalan riders: Maverick Viñales (Moto3), Pol Espargaró (Moto2) and Marc Márquez (MotoGP).
Furthermore, Laia Sanz stands out as a female motorist being a thirteen-time Women’s Trial World Champion and ten-time Women’s Trial European Champion in outdoor motorcycle trials. She is also seven times champion of the Dakar Rally, the best female result in history.
Kilian Jornet is also a very well-known athlete; seven-time winner of the Skyrunner World Series, three-time winner of UTMB, and eleven-time world champion mountaineering skiing. There are also Catalan basketball players like Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Ricky Rubio playing in the NBA.
In swimming, Mireia Belmonte is the current maximum exponent with 50 medals in her possession in different disciplines in international competitions, including 24 gold medals, 29 silver medals and 7 bronzes medals.
When did Barcelona become an Olympic host city?
In 1992 the city hosted the Summer Olympic Games with over 9,300 athletes representing 169 countries. The Catalan capital was selected over Amsterdam, Belgrade, Birmingham, Brisbane and Paris. But it was not the first time Barcelona was in the selection process to become the Olympic capital: in 1931 the city lost out against Berlin for the 1936 Olympic Games. As a protest against the Nazi regime hosting the Olympics, Barcelona decided to organize an alternative event, the international People’s Olympiad, in July 1936. Unfortunately the outbreak of the Civil War meant these games never went ahead.