The Remains of Sarajevo's 1984 Olympics

The Remains of Sarajevo's 1984 Olympics
As 'the city in mountains and the mountain in the city,' and the meeting point of the warm Mediterranean and cold continental climates, Sarajevo provides the ideal conditions for winter sports.
-Excerpt from 1984 Sarajevo Olympic pamphlet
me with Ely

me with Ely

When Sarajevo hosted the winter Olympics in 1984, the city was at the top of its game: it was the first time Yugoslavia held the Olympics, and its modern facilities represented the country well.  Sarajevo was a high-class city with diverse architecture, culture, and nature, so playing Olympic host was quite the feather in the city's cap.  Once the Olympics were over, the city's grand venues didn't suffer from neglect like most other Olympic venues do, but were ravaged by war and the ruthless Serbian forces that held the city hostage for six years in the 1990s.  Serbian forces situated themselves in the mountains overlooking the city, patting locals on the head and telling them it was nothing to worry about, then brutally took the city by surprise force in 1992 when Bosnia declared independence from Yugoslavia.  

Sarajevo, a city nestled at the base of the mountains, was the perfect venue for winter sports requiring cold, snowy hills.  Former venues for bobsledding and skiing turned into sources of constant sniper fire and shelling on innocent civilians below, and the former sports venues wear the scars from this dark period.  While in Sarajevo, I was lucky to meet a local, Bekir, who lived in the hills and took his precious dog Ely for walks on Mount Trebević's bobsled tracks on his days off (Mango sadly had to sit this one out; he's more of a sniffer than a hiker).  So, I was fortunate to get a private tour and local perspective of this notable time in Bosnia and Herzegovina's history.  I also managed to visit the Olympic hall Skenderija and gathered information on the city's other venues, which I have listed here.  I'd love to return to the city one day and visit the remaining sites, and even the museum that I spotted on Google Maps.  Sarajevo citizens are fiercely proud of their role in serving the Olympics and tchotchkes featuring the Sarajevo '84 logo and mascot Vučko are in shop windows, hotels, and more; local tours specialize in the '84 Olympics, so it's safe to say that the grand venues may be in disrepair but the spirit of the games lives on.


Mount Trebević (bobsled track)

This is probably the most visited venue from the city's 1984 Olympics.  A short but steep climb from the city center, Mount Trebević is home to the remains of Sarajevo's bobsled tracks.  Its concrete construction and design was considered highly technical and modern at the time, although this isn't obvious from what remains.  The tracks are now covered in colorful graffiti and occasionally used for BMX biking and roller derby events.  Locals and tourists visit the site for recreation and there are resting areas and city views nearby, so the area feels more like a park than abandoned Olympic venue.  This website (published two years ago) says that the bobsled track is being renovated for the 2017 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival, but there were no signs of activity when I visited.


Around Mount Trebević


Čolina Kapa Astronomical Observatory

Unrelated to the city's 1984 Olympics, this former Austro-Hungarian military fortress turned astronomical observatory is a few minutes' walk from Mount Trebević and worth a quick visit.  The refined facility and all of its instruments inside were tragically destroyed during the war in the 1990s.  Despite astronomy playing a major role in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the 15th century, the study has lain dormant since this facility was destroyed.


Skenderija (Olympic hall)

Smack dab in the middle of Sarajevo is Skenderija, “Skender’s place” named after Turkish tribal leader Skender from the 1400s. This drab concrete sports center was built in 1969 as a cultural and sports center for Yugoslavia, featuring a top-notch modern youth club. For the Olympics in 1984, the city updated and expanded the complex to become a high-class ice sports venue and press headquarters. Sadly, in 1992 during the Siege of Sarajevo the center was badly damaged with shell fire and the youth club was completely burned out. In 2012, heavy snowfall caused the ice hall’s roof to collapse. Today, the youth club has been rehabilitated and is used for concerts and events. Next to the club is a small contemporary art gallery, Ars Aevi, worth a visit for a few dollars’ entrance fee. (The girl working in the gallery welcomed me in as they were closing and when I expressed interest in the buildings, she kindly gave me a quick tour of the locked youth club. She offered to connect me with someone the next day who could let me into the ice hall, but sadly I had already planned a day trip to Višegrad then.) The rest of the complex is a half-dead underground shopping mall that's seen better days. I couldn’t tell if some of the buildings had tenants. Sarajevo’s city government was rehabilitating the site up to 2006, but it’s unclear what the future holds for this former world-class facility. (Wikipedia)


Other Venues

Koševo stadium - built for the Olympics, used for the opening ceremony, currently used as a football stadium, renamed Asim Ferhatović Hase Stadium

Zetra Olympic Hall - indoor sporting venue built for the Olympics (speed skating), was destroyed in 1992 and its basement was used as a morgue and storage space for medical supplies with the venue's wooden seats used as coffins for killed civilians, used for the closing ceremony, reconstructed in 1999 and renamed Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic Hall, an Olympic museum (according to Google Maps) and the Olympic tower with iconic rings are located nearby

Mojmilo olympic village - built for the Olympics and mostly destroyed during the war, but thousands of apartments were rebuilt thanks to help from the government of Barcelona, Spain, great photos here 

Mount Igman - served as the location for two ski jumps during the Olympics and later as a place for executions during the war in the 1990s

Mount Bjelašnica & Mount Jahorina were skiing venues south of Mount Igman