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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .

Freedom for Catalonia? Catalan Nationalism, Spanish Identity and the Barcelona Olympic Games
John Hargreaves

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000
178pp. Index. Biblio. Pb.: ISBN 0-521-58615-1.

This book shows the intimate connection between sport and nationalism through the example of a major event like the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Hargreaves approaches the subject in a very thoughtful and thorough manner, exposing the influence the Games had on the relationship between Catalan nationalism and the Spanish state. In the first chapter the author prepares the ground studying how Olympism had previously been used by different players as a means of mobilizing support for various causes in an attempt to legitimise their case internationally. Thereafter his main argument, that Catalan nationalism was stimulated by the Olympics, is built through an interesting account of the Games based to great extent on his personal account and enriched with some useful interviews. The specific chapter on Catalan nationalism would have benefited from the consideration of other peripheral nationalisms within Spain, notably the Basque one. There are other important omissions in a book which allegedly tries to go beyond the particularism of one major event like the Olympics. Thus the author ignores the controversy about the attempts by Catalonia and the Basque Country to have their own football national teams along the lines of Scotland and Wales. Moreover it is equally disappointing to find only two brief references to Barcelona Football Club given its major role in the identity of Catalonia. In addition to this, Hargreaves fails to mention the ongoing debate on the so called policy of linguistic normalization and the controversy about the dubbing of films into Catalan. These factors are all of key relevance in the development of Catalan nationalism which certainly have a more permanent effect on that ideology than the ephemeral 1992 Olympic Games had. The conclusion provides a very illuminating analysis of the inclusive character of Catalan nationalism. This, along with the rigorous examination of the deployment of national symbols around the Barcelona Games offered by Hargreaves in the previous chapters, are the most insightful parts of this work.

Dr Rogelio Alonso, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

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