A festival of sport and journalism to celebrate 50 years of AS, which means Ace in Spanish. Half a century of achievements, of heroes, of sporting thrills all contained in 17,013 editions found at the newsstands and now by millions of internet users around the planet. Half a century, above all, at the service of our readers.
This was a fiesta presided over by the King and Queen of Spain, Don Felipe and Doña Letizia, who awarded the AS Awards to Spain's finest sportsman and sportswoman of these five decades: Rafa Nadal and Mireia Belmonte. The lifetime achievement award went to the ever inspiring Sebastian Coe. If we are made of the stuff of our dreams, sportspeople are our clearest example of how, with passion and drive, those dreams can be achieved.
AS 50th anniversary gala event
The event took place at City Hall in Madrid, the city where, on 6 December 1967 As was born. A newspaper in black and white which gained colour and grew in parallel with the burgeoning Spanish sporting success. And now, with the digital transformation, is a global publication reaching 25 million users worlwide (according to the Comscore data). With digital versions in Latin America (worldwide leader in the Spanish language), the USA, English and soon to be arriving in the Arabic world with AS Arabia which will serve 25 counties in the Middle East and North Africa.
The host for tonight's celebration was AS Editor Alfredo Relaño. By his side was Juan Luis Cebrián, president of PRISA, the publisher of this newspaper; Manuel Polanco, vicepresident of PRISA and Manuel Mirat, CEO of Prisa and president of AS.
Also in attendance were Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, minister for Education, Culture and Sport, Ana Pastor, president of Congress, Manuela Carmena, mayor of Madrid, and José Ramón Lete, secretary of state for Sport. Alongside them were the ambassadors of those countries where AS is present: Mohammed Jaham Al Kuwari (Qatar), Alberto Furmanski (Colombia), José Antonio García Belaunde (Peru), Roberta Lajous (Mexico), Federico Ramón Puerta (Argentina), as well as Gabriela Dancau (Romanía).
The King of Spain, Don Felipe, who knows what it is to lead the Spanish delegation at the Olympic Games, in Barcelona in 1992 said: "AS is a key publication in terms of understanding Spanish sport and a reference point in society, which has covered the story of world sport". The King said that since the start "one of the differentiating values of AS was its innovative nature and the quality of its sports reports" and said it was a "privilege" for sport to "be the hallmark of Spain, representing our culture and our values to the whole world." Felipe VI noted the pleasant coincidence between the anniversary of the newspaper and that of Spain's constitution.
Juan Luis Cebrián praised the "symbolic value of sport for free and peaceful co-existence", because, as the president of PRISA recalled, alluding to the "Ping-pong diplomacy" between the USA and China in the seventies, "a match can do more for world peace and international order than hours of politicians and state representatives engaging a dialogue of the deaf".
There were though many missing from tonight's celebration, who also deserved to be in the limelight. "The prize winners are just the tip of the iceberg, because this is a tribute to everyone", said Relaño, underlining that "what's made this profession even more of a pleasure is that over these years Spain has embraced sport and had incredible successes, that were unthinkable 50 years ago". Achievements made possible too thanks to the drive of companies such as Danone, El Corte Inglés, Ford, Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, Tag Heuer, Repsol, Iberdrola, Telefónica and Banco Santander, all of whom collaborated with As for these awards.
The night's moment of sadness came with a video which included Ángel Nieto and his 12+1 (in reference to his 13 World Championships which, being superstitious he preferred to name thus), Seve Ballesteros and Paquito Fernández Ochoa. Incredible sportspeople who are no longer with us.
Also named were "pioneers such as Federico Martín Bahamontes, Manolo Santana, Mariano Haro, Julio Jiménez and Pedro Ferrándiz”, all recognised by the presenters, Laura Martínez (head of sports at radio station SER) and Dani Garrido (director of sports show Carrusel).
But there were many more who did head up to the stage to receive their trophy, designed by Javier Mariscal, the father of Cobi, the mascot of the Games that were 'pole vault' for Spanish sport, as Relaño said. The memories came flooding back: Iribar, Orantes, the 12-1 against Malta, the basketball silver in Los Ángeles, Indurain, Cacho, the football Olympic gold, Real Madrid's seventh European Cup, the gold medal in Saitama, Ruth and the World Cup in South Africa. Pure happiness. The stuff of dreams.