In August 2019, the Vallehermoso Stadium will be reopened. This closes a wound that had been left on the map of Madrid, and in the history of our athletics. A place where over almost half a century many competitions of the highest level that have been seen in the capital were developed, and that in July 2007 closed its doors for an immediate reconstruction. The moment coincided with the well-known economic crisis that toured the world, and what was to be a short time became twelve long years. But everything comes, and the Vallehermoso stadium returns to see the light, and to welcome athletes from all over the world. So it seems a good time to go, even synthetically, so many events that were seen in Vallehermoso.
The stadium was located on the plot that had been the San Martin Sacramental Cemetery, built in 1848. In 1932 the cemetery was moved, although bones were still found for a long time, and the site was known as the field of skulls. In 1957 the transfer of the plot arrived, flanked by the streets Juan Vigón, Santander, Jesús Maestro and Islas Philippines, in the Chamberí district, to the Youth Front for 50 years. The objective was the construction of the stadium that was to host the Ibero-American Games. Subsequently, the ownership was transferred to the Provincial Council, succeeded by the Community of Madrid when it was constituted, and in 2007, after the fifty-year term of the concession expired, it reverted to the City Council.
The project was carried out by the architect Manuel Herrero Palacios, who was the Director of Parks and Gardens of the City Council of Madrid for a long time, and who is the author of other outstanding constructions in the city. And in 1961, a year before the Ibero-American Games, came the inauguration of the Stadium. On March 19, the XIII National School Games began, and on that occasion this sports facility was inaugurated, which had a running track of 400 meters – finally, contrasting with the history of the University City, of only 300 -, swimming pool of 33 meters, tracks for basketball, handball, and roller hockey, and raquetball (pediment), while indoor pool, gym and other facilities were planned for a second phase. On Saturday, April 8, the Games were closed in Vallehermoso, with the assistance of the Ministers of National Education, Jesús Rubio García-Mina, and Labor, Fermín Sanz-Orrio, the National Youth Delegate, Jesús López-Cancio, and the Mayor of Madrid, count of Mayalde.
Inauguración estadio Vallehermoso
As it is was foreseen since its construction was decided, the true release of Vallehermoso came with the II Ibero-American Games. The first edition had been in Santiago de Chile, in 1960, and this second one and for a long time the last one, came to Madrid. In Spain, some Mediterranean Games had been held, in Barcelona 1955, and International Games of the FISU, San Sebastián 1955 as well. But in Madrid there had been no major international competition. The competition was very intense and disputed, and many brands that had never been seen in Spain were achieved. Among them it is worth mentioning, as far as our athletes are concerned, the 7.52 with which Luis Felipe Areta won the length, touching his national record of 7.54 achieved three months earlier in Bordeaux. Areta doubled, also winning the triple jump. The other two Spanish victories were achieved by Alfonso Carlos de Andrés in javelin (68.17), and by Alberto Esteban in 800 meters, who doubled together with José Luis Martínez. The only record of Spain that was achieved was in the 4x100 meter relay, matching the 41.9 mark for the third time. It must also highlight the Ibero-American record of 400 meters hurdles that the Argentine Juan Carlos Dyrzka beat with 50.9. The classification by countries remained undecided until the last test. Venezuela won with 121 points, followed by Argentina with 120, and by Spain, also with 120.
There was also women’s competition, which meant the return of women’s athletics to Madrid since 1940; but without Spanish participation, which at that time was in an incipient state. The Cuban Miguelina Cobián, double winner in 100 and 200 meters, stood out, but the triumph for countries went to Brazil. Unfortunately, the good beginnings of this competition stayed there. It would not be until 1983 when the Ibero-American Championships revived, starting again in Spain, in Serrahima.
Salto de longitud
From that moment the history of Spanish athletics went through Vallehermoso, which became the fundamental track in Madrid. The absolute Spanish Championship became a regular on the track. All editions from 1964 to 1972, plus 1974, 1976 and 1986, up to a total of twelve times, were held in Chamberí. It would be impossible to collect the most outstanding achievements of each of these editions. But obviously something must be noted about how much was achieved.
The first visits of the Absolute Team to Vallehermoso was in 1964, returning to Madrid after 22 year of absence, and changing the 300 meters of the University for the brand new installation. The most notable were undoubtedly four records from Spain: two men, the 53,3 in 400 meters hurdles of Manuel Carlos Gayoso and the 2,06 that Luis María Garriga achieved in height; and two other women, the one of weight, that Luisa María García Peña beat three times in a row with 10,62, 10,65 y 10,85, and the 51,2 that the La Coruña Team achieved in the 4x 100 relay, in record beat for the first three quarters
In 1965 the only Spanish record (but double) was achieved by Ignacio Sola, who successively jumped 4.75 and 4.72. In ladies, Emma Albatros repeated for the third time the 12.5 om 100 meters, Arancha Vega improved her 800 meter march to 2:21.4, and again Garcia Peña made a triple in weight, at the beginning of her three shots of 11,22., 11,74 and 11,85
Ramón Magariños (1966)
The third consecutive Championship, in 1966, saw Ramón Magariños match his own record of Spain of 400 meters, with 47.4. In the fences event, Gayoso took his to 52.1. In the women’s sector, Emma Albertos fell for the first time of the 26 seconds, by beating the 200 record with 25.9, and García Pena again made a record for Spain, but this time on record, and “only” in duplicate: first 42 , 90, and then 43.72.
In 1967 there were only two Spanish records, both in the female category. Again in 200 meters, this time by María Luisa Orobia with 25.5, and again in weight for García Pena, who already reached 12,25. The 1968 Championships had the imminent Games of Mexico as a perspective, but no record of Spain was achieved. Perhaps thinking about what was to happen shortly after, it is significant that Ignacio Sola won the pole vault easily, exceeding 5.00, and then tried, but failed, 5.20 that would have anticipated that record of Spain that For a while it was Olympic. As he explained later, if he had achieved 5.20, he would then have asked for 5.40, world record!
In the 1969 Championships, the best in men was for Rafael Blanquer who won the length with 7.87, the new national record. In the females three new records were achieved: Coro Fuentes in 800 meters began his reign in the record with 2: 12.8; in high jump, Teresa María Roca, achieved her first record with 1.61; and in the weight Ana María Molina began her mastery of the test by winning with 12.40. But the most significant of this Championship was a technical issue: it was the first time that the national championship was played on a synthetic arena, on the tartan that had premiered on June 7 of that year on the occasion of the Kangaroo Trophy, as we will comment later on.
The 1970 Championship was the fiftieth in the history of our athletics. There were notable marks: in 100 meters, Juan Carlos Jones matched twice, in the semifinals and the final, the record of 10.3 that so many times would be repeated over a decade. In 400 meters hurdles there was also a double record. Francisco Suarez Canal got first 51.1 in the play off, and then 50.6 in the final. In the women’s sector, Coro Fuentes matched his 800-meter record with 2: 10.7, and Sagrario Aguado regained the height record, with 1.62, a performance that the previous record woman, Teresa María Roca, also tried.
The 1971 Championships saw three records of Spain, in curious repetition of the previous year. Suarez Canal won the 400 meters hurdles again, now in 50.5, after arduous dispute with Manuel Soriano, second in 50.7. In the female height, the one who now recovered the record was Roca with 1.63. And the most notable brand was the new record of 400 meters achieved by Josefina Salgado with 55.5, improving by more than a second its previous 56,8.
Once again the Olympic year, that of 1972 was the last of this series of Championships in Vallehermoso, up to nine consecutive editions. There were two male records, the 800 meters achieved by Antonio Fernández Ortiz with 1: 46.8, and the 400 meters hurdles where Manuel Soriano took the rematch of the previous year, and achieved a 49,8 that would last a decade in the books. And a feminine one, again the one of height, who now achieved Sagrario Aguado with 1,71, taking it for the last time from Teresa María Roca who also tried that height.
After a year in Barcelona, the Championship returned to Vallehermoso in 1974. The best of the men’s record came in the rapid events. In the 100 meters Luis Javier Sarriá equaled the record with 10,3, and also matched the 200 in the play off, with 20,6. In the final he ran superbly, and triumphed with an extraordinary mark of 20,3; A few seconds later, enthusiasm was disappointed to learn that the +2.8 wind invalidated the record. Something similar happened in the 110 meter hurdles. Gerardo Calleja in the play off and Juan Lloveras in the semifinal matched his own record of 14,1. But the 14,0 of Lloveras in the final were windy. In long jump Blanquer made his third record of 7.87, all three in national championships. The female sprint also lost records due to excessive wind. On the other hand, in the longest event, the 3,000 meters that were released in the medal winners, Carmen Valero, triple champion, set a new national record with 9: 35.4. María José Martínez in the 100 meters hurdles saved the great record obtained, 14,2, when the wind was just at the limit of 2 m / s. And yet another record, the weight that Ana María Molina beat, with 14,13. As it looks, and despite the wind, great results.
Salto de longitud
On the other hand, in 1976, only one record of Spain was broken, that of Sinesio Garrachón in discus throw, exceeding for the first time the 55 meters when launching up to 55,12. And a great gap is coming, until the championships returned to Vallehermoso in 1986. Three Spanish records were achieved; one male, that of hammer throw by Raúl Jimeno with 72,36, and two femininie, the 5,000 meter march, of Mari Cruz Díaz with 22:30,90 (and 13:32,4 when passing through 3,000, also a record for Spain), and heptatlon that Ana Pérez improved with 5,390 points.
After the championship returned to Madrid, in 1995, but it went to the Community Stadium, Vallehermoso began to go out of style.
But not only the Spanish Championships were held in Vallehermoso, but since the celebration of the Ibero-American Games, there was often international competition on its arena. Thus, on July 19 and 20, 1969, a new competition, the Westathletic, was premiered in it, with the participation of Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark and the
West Athletics (1969)
Netherlands, as they were classified at the end. Of the Spanish representation Rafael Cano stood out, who won in decathlon improving his national record up to 7,598 points. Also in the long relay Magariños, Rivas, Bondía and Gayoso surpassed the Spanish performances with 3:07,4, seconds after Belgium, although the record was not approved because Magariños had stepped on the adjacent alley, despite which the team was not disqualified.
On June 14, 1975 a women’s European Cup play off was played. Some of the performances achieved began the listing of Spanish records with electrical timing, so it seems advisable to point them out. In 100 meters Ela Cifuentes was fifth with 12,58, probably the best electric performance so far. Undoubtedly, and it was the first homologated, the 200-meter, 25.49 by Gloria Pujol, also fifth. In the 400 meters, Rosa Colorado was third with 54.07, Spain’s new record. Sagrario Aguado in height and María Jesús Fernández in javelin were also third, and Spain was fifth among the six participating nations.
Numerous inter-country meetings were also held. For not making this note eternal, we will mention only the first, on 6 and 7 July 1963, an eternal Spain – Portugal. The victory smiled at Spain, 122-93. Sánchez Paraíso, second in the 200 meters, equaled the national record with 21,6, while accompanied by Matallana, Calle y Areta broke the 4x100 relay in 41,8, despite being defeated by the visiting team that also improved their record.
And then there were classics that lasted many years, such as the Kangaroo Trophy. It started in 1959 in the capacities of the University, moved to Vallehermoso, and reached a summit in the XI edition, the 1969 edition. As we mentioned before, on 7 June, and on this occasion, “his reddish tartan arena” was premiered. The meeting was used to select athletes for the European team that was to face the American, which attracted many foreigners. The most notable event was an extraordinary 400 meters, which the Polish Badenski won in 45,8, followed by Gayoso, the new Spanish record with 46,2, and Magariños who recorded 46,4. Both broke the previous record, precisely that of Magariños the previous year, in the same stadium, and same competition, when he made 46,7. The return to the arena also had a women’s record, as Coro Fuentes with 57,3 improved its 57,9 of the X Trophy. And in high jump, Sagrario Aguado broke his own record by a centimeter, with 1,59 “jumping Fosbury style”, novelty also on our records chart.
Aouita González (1985)
More modernly, the International Meeting City of Madrid premiered in 1979, and that first edition and the following seven, from 1984 to 1990, then under the name of Reunion Internacional Comunidad de Madrid were held in Vallehermoso. It then returned, now with the name of Meeting Atletismo Madrid, the years 2005 to 2007. Some impressive performances have been achieved on that track, and on that occasion. It is worth remembering that the 3:55.94 of José Luis Carreira in the mile (1989), 4:54.98 of Said Aouita in 2,000 meters (19 Jordi Garcia’s 13:53.41 in 5,000 meters (1984), Danny Harris’ 47.56 in 400-meter hurdles (1987), 5:25.35 Julius Koror in 2,000 meters obstacles (1986), 17.53 by Zdzislaw Hoffman in triple (1985), 21.79 by weight (2006), 70.67 by Virgili Alekna on disc (2005), 2:42.68 by Letitia Vriesde in 1,000 meters (1990), 4.95 by Yelena Isinbayeva in pole (2005 ), and 20.79 by weight (1984).
Of this relationship of performances it is certainly worth noting two. Isinbayeva, who was the world record, achieved on 16 July 2005; it was a bubbly time of the female pole. The previous record of the Russian was 4.93 achieved in Lausanne on the 5th day; and the Madrid performance lasted only six days, the 22 successively jumped 4.96 and 5.00 in London. And the other one that’s going to underline is Harris’ 47.56 on the 400-meter hurdles. Not so much because of the performance, but because the second-placed was Edwin Moses with 47.69. This was Moses’ first loss in the 400-meter hurdles after nine years, nine months and nine days, with 122 consecutive victories.
Moses Haris (1987)
400 m v
Needless to say, Vallehermoso has broken an infinity of Spanish records. Many of them have been gathered in the previous lines, when talking about great competitions. But others were achieved in local or lower-level events. None of them are in force. Let us quote the last two, achieved in 1990. On June 24, at a FAM checkpoint, Conchi Paredes, which unfortunately just passed away, beat the triple jump with 13.15. And on July 6, at the Spanish Cadet Championship, Usué Zatika improved the 300-meter electric absolute performance, with 39.07. The last men’s record had been the previous year, when David Martínez released the album at 59.98 on June 9, 1989, at the International Community Meeting of Madrid, even if the performance paled next to the 65 meters of the winner, the Cuban Delis. Let us hope that soon theVallehermoso Stadium returns to the Spanish records book, with new succcesses from our athletes
As we have seen, the 2007 Meeting was held in Vallehermoso, in the year in which its ownership reverted to the City Council. This was the closure of the facility, and from that moment on, came the void. As part of Madrid’s bid for the Olympic Games, it was (rightly) considered that the stadium had become obsolete. In March 2008 the City Council authorized the demolition, a preliminary step for the construction of a new facility. In particular, an athletics stadium was envisaged, with a stand for 10,000 spectators, and various auxiliary spaces for athletes, public and technical services. In addition, a covered sports hall, three auxiliary rooms (one for fencing), and a pool of 50 meters. The demolition was estimated at almost 5 and a half million euros, with an implementation period of six months. A competition was then called for the construction project, in which the Cano Lasso Studio was awarded the winner. The new Stadium was expected to see the light by the end of 2010. But the farewell to Olympic hopes, and the economic crisis that began in 2008 paralyzed everything. It was not until April 2018 that everything was restarted, piloted by the same competition award.
Thus, on August 25, 2019, “athletics comes back home”, with the celebration of the Meeting Madrid 2019 at the revived Vallehermoso Arena. Let the history of the remodeled stadium be as windy as it was that which began back in 1961.