From 14 to 20 October, the iconic frontons of the Vall d’Hebron Municipal Olympic Sports Centre will play host to the Basque Pelota World Championships 2018, a major event that will bring together the world’s 14 best national pelota teams for the first time in Barcelona. With just one hundred days to go until the curtains rises on these World Championships, the President of the Catalan Basque Pelota Federation (FCP), Agustí Brugués, and the Sports Commissioner of the Barcelona City Council, Marta Carranza, share their enthusiasm for a unique sports event that will turn the city into a sports capital once again, thereby reclaiming its bond with Basque pelota and leaving behind a very valuable legacy: a remodelled municipal facility in Vall d’Hebron for the practice of Basque pelota.
The dream of these World Championships first took shape in 2014, when Julián García Angulo, President of the Spanish Basque Pelota Federation (FEP) and Vice-President of the International Federation of Basque Pelota (FIPV), remarked to Brugués of the possibility of hosting this top-level competition in 2018. “He told me there was a chance and we could be present a good bid because of the facilities that we had. As always, it was also a question of money, because up to 700 athletes were able to get together for a world championship a few years go.” Brugués took the proposal to municipal sports directors and then travelled to Mexico, home of the World Championships in 2014, to attend the assembly to choose the host country for the World Championships in 2018. Spain was the eventual winner and the FCP continued to work to give shape to a Barcelona project that would finally emerge victorious thanks to the support of the city’s institutions. “We signed with the City Council a year and a half after we began working on this great dream,” Brugués recalls.
This is the first time that Basque Pelota World Ball Championships will land in Barcelona, a city with a long-standing history in organising sports events. “We are extremely well prepared in terms of organisation here in Barcelona. The Olympic Games taught us a great deal. We also have experience in the world of Basque pelota, because we staged both the Short Fronton World Cup and Under-22 Jai Alai World Championship in 2007. The best part of all this is that the remodelling work we have done for these World Championships has resulted in some facilities in Vall d’Hebron that are unique in the world. We are very satisfied indeed.”
Major legacy in the form of municipal facilities for Barcelona
The remodelling of Vall d’Hebron will be a legacy of these World Championships for a city that is passionate about sport. “Barcelona is a city open to sport. Mass sports, individual sport, healthy sport, competition sport… in fact, all sports disciplines are welcome in our city,” says Marta Carranza, Sports Commissioner of the Barcelona City Council, before adding that “now it is the turn of Basque pelota and its various modalities. Unique World Championships underlining our city’s bonds with this sport. Barcelona City Council has committed itself to this value: more than 1,000 schoolchildren practiced the sport during the 2017-18 academic year; the setting, a municipal facility (Vall d’Hebron Municipal Olympic Sports Centre), has seen its facilities improved. In short, a lasting legacy for the city.”
With a hundred days to go until the big event, Brugués, who was a world championship Basque pelota player in his day, is looking forward to these World Championships “with great enthusiasm. The board of the Catalan Basque Pelota Federation and Organising Committee are both very excited. Organising these World Championships in Barcelona is a dream. I remember we were already discussing it in 1987 with the then Secretary General of Sport, Josep Lluís Vilaseca, my sports master and great mentor.” Vilaseca and Brugués shared a passion for a sport “that is the most beautiful in the world, truly the most beautiful! Watching a Basque pelota game is a unique spectacle. It involves strength, astuteness and is like ballet, great to look at and requiring brute strength… it encompasses many things. I would like these World Championships to help young people acknowledge the beauty of this sport. This is the best tool we have to bring this unique sport to youngsters.”