In an interview with Go Aragón, the Zaragoza City Councilor for Sports reviews the main lines of his area and big bets of the Aragonese capital such as its aspiration to be European Capital of Sport in 2026 or the creation of a Smart City of Sport.
Zaragoza’s Councilor for Sports, Félix Brocate (Zaragoza, 1957), is not a newcomer, far from it, to the universe of his area. He was a handball referee at the elite level, he was able to attend three Olympic Games and, from 2011 to 2015, he held the position of Director General of Sports of the Government of Aragon.
Now, from the consistory of Zaragoza, he faces challenges, along with other areas of the city council, such as the possible European capital of sport of the Aragonese capital in 2026, the construction of a new stadium or that the project of the Smart City of Sport becomes a reality. In an interview with Go Aragón, Brocate reviews these objectives that the Aragonese capital has in the sports field and analyzes the situation that the city is going through in this field.
There are a few days left for the delegation that evaluates the finalists to be European Capital of Sport in 2026, what will they find in Zaragoza?
We are looking forward to it with great joy because we want to show ACES Europe, which is the entity that is going to evaluate us, everything that Zaragoza gives to sport. I think it is a city that is going to be the European capital of sport, I am convinced that it will be, first, because it has had a lot and good. Not only sport as such, but also great sportsmen and women who have given the city a lot of prestige beyond our borders. And sport is noticeable; that is to say, when you organize any outdoor sporting activity, sport is everywhere. We have to do more outdoor sports, we have to show the city to the outside world and get citizens out of their homes to practice any sporting activity.
When the Sports Day in the street was organized here on September 17, it was something spectacular because, throughout the whole day, even though it was threatening to storm, the Plaza del Pilar was packed from morning until it ended in the evening. In other words, people want to do sports in the street. And that is what we want to show ACES Europe, that Zaragoza is a city that breathes sport on all four sides and that the people of Zaragoza are eager to walk, jog, run or play any kind of sport.
What potential does Zaragoza have in the field of sports?
It has many facilities and very good of any kind; we need more and that is why the Smart City of Sport is projected, to host international competitions, especially. But we have a fantastic pool of facilities, we have a potential of spectacular athletes that we want to keep in the city, providing them with what they surely need so that they do not leave. We need that the sportsmen and women from Zaragoza who are in the city do not leave and that those who are outside, come back.
In this sense, we have many things to give; surely, we will lack and, in these four years, what we intend is that Zaragoza is different, that it becomes the capital of sport, because, in addition, we have all the options: touristically speaking, we are a beautiful city, communications are excellent, the hotel industry can surely compete with any other city in Spain … we are a city that we still have much to develop, but we also have all the possibilities to make ourselves known.
Salma Paralluelo, an elite athlete who grew up in the city’s grassroots sports, has been named Favorite Daughter, what initiatives are there to promote this facet?
We are providing financial support to grassroots sports, we have a program called Sport for All, which is mainly endowing the facets of sport for women and sport and different abilities. We are helping clubs in the top and lower categories and, this year, we have launched aid for clubs that have been relegated and are trying to be promoted or for those that have been relegated and are still trying to be promoted. We want the teams that have lost the elite categories to return to them because, at the moment, we understand that only Casademont and Scorpio are the teams that are in the top category, in addition to some other minor sporting disciplines, but no less important for that.
One of the main lines of the candidacy for the European Capital of Sport is the attraction of major events. The Spanish Rally Championship recently passed through Zaragoza and this year it also hosted the Spanish Queen’s Cup. What are the plans for the future?
First, we need Zaragoza to be European Capital of Sport, because that will allow us to have the help of European funds to build the Intelligent City of Sport, which brings together sports facilities that will allow us to bring national and, above all, international competitions. And in that sense we want to move forward; we want to bring Spanish championships of grassroots sport because that attracts many followers behind, because we want Zaragoza not only to be a city of sport, but also of tourism and culture. Sport is transversal and we want to make the city known through sport. Therefore, we are working with the area of Culture and Tourism to help us in that sense.
We want the city to be full of followers and people who come around sporting events and that is why the Smart City of Sport is the best attraction, because there we will have the possibility of holding national and international competitions, without forgetting the Príncipe Felipe pavilion, which has tremendous options. And, of course, the new Romareda, which will allow us, if everything goes according to plan, to bring the King’s Cup finals, big concerts that until now could not come here… we have planned major sporting and cultural events for which this city has every chance of being the ideal one.
Is it possible to reopen the debate on the location of the new Romareda?
Right now it is essential that La Romareda remains where it is for the time being. Among other things, because if not, we won’t get there in time. If we reopen the melon with another project, we won’t make it. And the objective is for us to be the sub-host (of the 2030 World Cup). Therefore, right now the only possible project is La Romareda, because if not, we will not be on time. There is no debate there; then, we will see if it is the projected stadium, which I think is the ideal one, because time is tight and what we have to do is to start as soon as possible what was planned.
Where would it leave Zaragoza to have this Intelligent City of Sport?
The project of this Intelligent City of Sport is very new. It has an aquatic palace with a state-of-the-art Olympic swimming pool to host international competitions that until now have not been brought to Zaragoza. We need this space because, in addition, we will provide it for the swimmers of Zaragoza, who are having a hard time at the moment because there is no water surface to train and compete in. There is a mini-football stadium, which is necessary for the 2030 World Cup, and a multidisciplinary pavilion, which is essential for hosting competitions and providing training facilities for disciplines that are currently having a hard time. For example, rhythmic gymnastics, which are now moving from space to space because they need special measures and conditions.
And then, an indoor athletics stadium, which right now in Spain there are very few, and the Huevo does not meet the conditions because it does not have the 200 meters of rope needed. We want to build this covered space to be able to bring national competitions and the Spanish Athletics Federation is eager to bring competitions to Zaragoza because of where we are located and what the city is like. This will give us the possibility of bringing international competitions that, through the international federation, are being proposed to us.
All this, around a residence for athletes that does not exist in Zaragoza. It is not only new, but it is one of the best that will exist right now at European level. I think it is going to be a tremendous possibility for athletes who are around us and who need to be located.
Regarding the promotion of sports among the citizens, how do you plan to get citizens involved in sports activities?
In the Príncipe Felipe Pavilion there are very important programs for senior citizens. There are a lot of elderly people, especially women, who don’t want to be alone at home, who want to exercise, who are at the Príncipe Felipe Pavilion interacting with other people like them. We want to fight obesity, we want to fight sedentary lifestyles and, above all, we want the elderly not to stay at home, to walk, to exercise. That’s why we have Route Z and other programs like Zaragoza Anda, which go hand in hand.
We want all the citizens of Zaragoza to exercise; if they do sport, all the better, but they do not necessarily have to do federated or regulated sport, which I wish they would. We want them to walk, to exercise. We have 22 wonderful routes, which they can look at on their cell phones and with them discover the city and the natural environment that surrounds us. If we get citizens to eat healthy, to walk, to exercise, and if they do sports, all the better; it will be beneficial for the city, for the country and, above all, for each one of us, who will be better off and live longer.
You have been a handball referee in the elite of that sport and have even been in the Olympic Games, what values of that world would you like to reach the citizens?
I have always said that sport gives much more than what you give to sport. You dedicate time, sacrifice and everything you have, but it gives you many things; it helps you to be responsible, rigorous, self-sacrificing and to give yourself to what you do. Therefore, I believe that we have to create a society that is involved, rigorous, serious, honest, hardworking, because that will be good for everyone. I believe that we have to share the values of sport with all the citizens who have not had the possibilities that I have had. I am a privileged person for having reached where I have reached. I have always said that all Spanish citizens should be in the Olympic Games so that they know what that is, because transmitting it is very complicated and it turns out that only 500 people every four years have that chance. There is nothing like it. And I am privileged because I have attended three Olympic Games and each one is different.
When you come back from there, you do it in a different way; I still keep my suitcases closed, I have never opened them, because inside those suitcases are all the feelings, sensations, memories… and if I open them, they may go away. I have been to World Championships, European Championships… but there is nothing like the Olympic Games. There is no difference of any kind there; you have breakfast with Nadal, lunch with Gasol, Ben Johnson or Cassius Clay, who came to visit Sydney. We are all the same; you come from a five-star hotel where they do everything for you and, the next day, you go to the washing machine, put your clothes in, wash them, iron them and then go to a dining room with thousands of people, there you have lunch, I insist, with Nadal, Gasol… and everyone is the same, there is no bad gesture between countries that may have quarrels.
All this makes you come back in a different way. All that solidarity, that dedication, that generosity that exists in sport, I would like all citizens to be impregnated with it because that, surely, would be good for us to make a society through sport fairer, more generous, more positive and, above all, much better for the little ones, those who come after us, who are the ones who must be told that we have to work hard to make society better.