Updated: Sep 12, 2019
This is the last instalment of our story on how skydiving's bid document was handed over to the President of the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992 (COOB '92). The work of convincing the President and close to 100 other COOB '92 members that skydiving would be the best choice as demonstration sport for what promised to be innovative Games had just started.
You must have guessed by now, there could not have been any tandem jumping in the conditions we were faced with. The tandem with the Castelló Mayor Esteve Ripoll was made about two weeks later. He was wearing his own jumpsuit; it was our gift – with his name and the Olympic rings embroidered on the chest. Pasqual Maragall was given one, too, but somehow we had his measurements all wrong. He tried but could not put it on for a photo, which we had hoped would be "the photo" to secure maximum take-up in the local and national press. We promised to have Pasqual's suit altered in time for the day of his tandem,
but he never returned to make it.
Not only were the risks I had taken with this stunt in marginal conditions hard to justify per se, even in the best of cases – with the sun out, the wind down and Esteve Ripoll strapped to me for a safe tandem landing on the beach – the impact of the display would have been very limited indeed. The audience was simply too small. And media representatives would never have been able to get to the landing zone.
By far the most effective part of our bid presentation was, without any doubt, the time Uwe Beckmann spent with Pasqual Maragall in a one-on-one conversation. Two highly educated men and brilliant minds exchanging on a wide range of topics – over more than one hour. That skydiving was brought up prominently I know, but given their similar background and personalities, there were plenty of other things too.
That this encounter took place was first and foremost the merit of Esteve Ripoll, his sharp mind, his quick reaction and response, as well as his true friendship with Maragall. The two
politicians, even though working on behalf of contrasting constituencies, have known and appreciated one another throughout their distinguished careers in the Socialist Party.
Esteve Ripoll got out of politics in the early 90s and returned to his life as a baker at his La Fleca, Catalan for "The Bakery," where all of us bought our bread until he retired. He spent his final years as an author, a playwright and director, an archivist and, above all, an activist. He died at 75 in 2014.
Pasqual Maragall remained Mayor of Barcelona through 1997, serving more than 15 years altogether. He returned to life in academia as a lecturer at universities in the USA and In Italy. The political comeback came only three years later, in 2000, when he he was elected to the Catalan Parliament and assumed the
presidency of the Socialist Party of Catalonia. Another three years later, he became the 127th President of the Generalitat, the autonomous government of Catalonia. An office which historians trace back to the 14th century. His most important political legacy was the Catalan Statute of Autonomy of 2006. Despite an explicit claim made in the preamble – "We are a Nation" – Maragall's Statute succeeded in establishing a mutually acceptable accord between the regional and the national governments until 2010.
Shortly after he renounced from running for a second term in 2006, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer. Only days after he made his disease public, he created the Pasqual Maragall Foundation for Research on Alzheimer.
In September 1989, when we did yet another skydiving exhibition, this time on the occasion of the opening of the renovated Olympic Stadium Montjuic in Barcelona, Maragall handed each of us a Barcelona 1992 flag in silk and with the Games’ real logo on it. We couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear, thinking back to that ill-fated jump in March 1987.