36 years ago, the XIV Winter Olympic Games started in Sarajevo. Sarajevo received the organization before Japanese Sappora and Swedish cities Falun and Göteborg. The fairytale lasted from 8-19 February, and according to estimates of relevant experts, those were the best Winter Olympic Games organized until then.
Sarajevo Olympics was a great opportunity to present the country, (the former Yugoslav Republic), in the best possible light, and in that regard were not shaken even by economic crises that hit the Former Yugoslav Republic, in the early ’80s.
Significant resources were spent and were built a large number of impressive buildings and other infrastructural objects. The government had the support of Sarajevo people, and the Games led to an increasing interest for winter sports, almost unknown in this part of Yugoslavia. The aim was that the Winter Olympic Games, as a symbol of world peace, to be held in the city that was connected to the start of the World War I.
Few Olympic cities have had to overcome so many post-Games difficulties as Sarajevo. In 1984, it was part of Yugoslavia, which became the first socialist state to host a Winter Games. Highlights included Norway’s Eirik Kvalfoss dominating the biathlon, Katarina Witt of East Germany shining in the speed skating, and the perfect performances of Great Britain’s figure skaters, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. The Games gave the city’s image a boost, refreshed its infrastructure and supercharged its passion for sport.
But eight years later, Sarajevo found itself at the heart of the bloody Bosnian War. The conflict, which lasted from 1992 to 1995, briefly divided the Olympic city into two distinct territories.
An independent Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged, but its capital had been destroyed – including most of the buildings and infrastructure developed for the Games. It was a huge, symbolic blow to Sarajevo’s rich Olympic heritage.
This atmosphere, which ruled for the Games, created something that we call the Olympic spirit, which has remained to this day. We built facilities, but the most important profit is the Olympic spirit. It drives and motivates people to get involved in sport, to train, or just to be fans.
“A lasting benefit is that the spirit is transmitted from generation to generation. Almost every child practised some sport. The Olympic spirit creates new athletes, new recreational players.” It is these people – the human legacy of Sarajevo ’84 – that represent this great city’s future.