January 9, 2024

Answering the Mountains’ Call: Awaken Your Olympic Spirit

Welcome to a journey back in time, where the snowy mountains of Sarajevo witnessed an extraordinary convergence of athleticism, companionship, and cultural richness during the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. As we stand on the brink of the 40th anniversary of this monumental event, it’s time to reflect on the historical importance of the Winter Olympic Games and the enduring cultural significance they hold for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From February 8 to 19, 1984, fourteen Winter Olympic Games were held in Sarajevo. The President of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch, voted the Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games as the best organized Winter Games by that time.

On the way to this majestic event, the capital of BiH had to go through phases of fantasy and challenge, disbelief and doubt, conviction and confirmation, and, above all, ecstasy and triumphant celebration. Bosnians and Herzegovinians dreamt about the most beautiful winter story for so long. The sports workers developed plans to publicize the candidacy, bring the Winter Olympic Games to Sarajevo, and grandly organize them. The Games unfolded against the backdrop of the Cold War, where political tensions melted away on the icy slopes, and athletes from East and West competed not just for medals but for a shared love for sport.

One year before the Olympics, all the necessary facilities for their maintenance were built. In total, 167 main and more than 400 auxiliary projects were realized. When the news was announced that Sarajevo organizing the Winter Olympic Games, the participation of the national teams registered grew to 49 National Olympic Committees, which were the record number of the Winter Olympics.

The record number of participants – athletes and their supporters – more than 2,500 people arrived in Sarajevo.

The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina became the host after a long fight with the Japanese town of Sapor. 998 men and 274 women took part in the competition.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, with its rich history and diverse cultural influences, showcased its beauty to the world through the Winter Olympics. The Olympics brought international attention to the warmth of Bosnian hospitality, the unique blend of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Slavic influences, and the breathtaking landscapes that served as the setting for this global celebration. This event left a lasting legacy, not just in the hearts of the athletes and spectators but in the infrastructure and spirit of Sarajevo. The world watched in awe as the city transformed into a global stage, a testament to what can be achieved when nations come together in the name of peace and friendly competition.

Fast forward to the present day: as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, it’s crucial to mention the relevance of the Olympic spirit in our modern, interconnected world. The Winter Olympics remind us that, despite our differences, there is a common thread that unites us all – the pursuit of excellence, the joy of competition, and the bonds forged through shared experiences.

In answering the mountains’ call, let us not only commemorate the past but also draw inspiration for the future. The Sarajevo Olympic Mountains: Bjelašnica, Jahorina, Igman, and Trebević, are a lasting reminder of the 1984 Winter Olympics. These steep peaks, which were covered in snow during the Games, not only hosted thrilling sports activities but also exhibited Bosnian’s breathtaking natural richness. Today, the Sarajevo Olympic Mountains serve as a reminder of the unity and joy that once graced their slopes.

Nowadays, these mountains invite tourists to embrace the continuing spirit of the heritage by valuing each trace of the past left on each of the mountains. One of the most popular marks from the Olympics is the Bob slide on Trebević mountain. At the 1984 Olympics, there were 20,000 luge spectators and 30,000 bobsleigh fans. Following the Winter Olympics, the track was utilized for World Cup competitions until the Yugoslav conflicts began in 1991, with the Bosnian War following the next year. During the Sarajevo Siege, the track was damaged.
The battlegrounds in the mountains were: Bjelašnica – male alpine skiing, Jahorina – female alpine skiing, Igman Veliko Polje – skiing, Nordic combined, biathlon, Trebević – bobsleigh, sledding.

Furthermore, the best witness of these changing times is the Olympic Museum in Sarajevo.
The Olympic Museum is one of the most representative segments of the BIH Olympic Committee, which participates in the development and affirmation of the Olympic values and spirit. It was established by the decision of the Organizing Committee of the XIV Winter Olympic Games with the desire to preserve a lasting memory of the organization and implementation of this unforgettable event. The Olympic Museum is one of the must-see attractions when in Sarajevo.

After all, everyone was satisfied: the world, because it saw the best organized ZOI (Winter Olympic Games), the first in a socialist country and without boycotts; Sarajevo because it won hearts and souls in the Olympic performance with courage and knowledge. The gentle “Pahuljica” of Miroslav Antonić and the brave “Vučko” of Jože Trobeca, the symbol and the mascot of the game, will testify about this for centuries.

Sarajevo, with its rich history and cultural heritage, should definitely take a place on every traveler’s list. In Sarajevo, you witness the meeting of different eras and cultures.

Lastly, enjoy some of the fun facts about the 14th Olympic Winter Games held in Sarajevo:

  • The organization of the Winter Olympic Games 84 was 142.6 million US dollars;
  • Half of the revenue was generated from the sale of the right to televise the program;
  • The TV broadcast was watched by 2 billion TV viewers and the games were covered by more than 4,500 journalists;
  • 45,000 people attended the opening ceremony and watched the lighting of the Olympic flame.
  • The first internet messages were sent from the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo!
  • A total of 250,000 tickets were sold – up to 200,000 tickets were sold abroad!
  • 1,272 athletes from 49 countries took part in the Olympics ’84, competing in six sports, ten disciplines, and 39 competitions;
  • The Olympic flame at the opening ceremony was set up by Sanda Dubravčić, the Croatian skater, and this was also the first time in history that this role has been held by a woman;
  • The mascot is a small wolf designed by Slovenian designer and illustrator Jože Trobec (among the finalists for the selection of the mascot were squirrel, lamb, mountain goat, porcini, and snowball);
  • Vučko is usually shown as a cute, not very skilled athlete, and his voice is borrowed Zdravko Čolić;
  • For the needs of the Olympic Games were built: Olympic Village Mojmilo, a village for journalists – Dobrinja, hotels Igman, Famos, and Smok (Bjelašnica), and hotel Bistrica at Jahorina;
  • The iconic Hotel Holiday Inn was built in October 1983, and then President of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch attended the opening;
  • After the Games, with the Olympic facilities, there were 2,850 newly built apartments, several hotels and there were open 9,500 new jobs;
  • 10,450 volunteers, 4,000 companies, and over a million individual donors were involved in the organization of the Games.