Sarajevo has seen some things. As my eye opening day understanding the Sarajevo Siege showed me, these horrific events weren’t that long ago. Sarajevo was less than a decade out from celebrating the 1984 Winter Olympics when Serbian tanks and guns completely surrounded the city. From the buildings riddled with bullet holes to the eerie remains of the Sarajevo 84 Olympic sites, the memory of this siege lives on today. I am a big fan of the Winter Olympics and the sense of patriotism and competition it brings. Having been to the last three Winter Olympic games I became fascinated with the Sarajevo 84 Olympic sites and what they have become. The images of abandoned and destroyed hotels and venues are haunting and shocking to see, something that is hard to wrap your head around to say the least.
To the Hills
For the 4 years Serbian forces surrounded Sarajevo from above, they made a stronghold using the former Olympics sites. This included a high-end hotel that looks nothing like it did 15 years ago. What once housed delegates and media personnel was used to store tanks and shelter troops. Today they sit abandoned and covered in garbage and graffiti.
The former bobsled run is probably the most popular of the Sarajevo 84 Olympic sites to visit. You can walk the remains and enjoy the colourful graffiti along the way. It was a grey and rainy day while I visited which only added to the chilling scene. As I walked I imagined the daring athletes that sped down this very track. I pictured crowds cheering them on and the rush it must have all been…then a stray dog brought me back to reality. It was surreal, like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie.
Note: Exercise caution when visiting these Sarajevo 84 Olympic sites. Theft and mugging is common in this popular yet remote area. It is suggested not to leave your car out of sight or better yet, go with a guide.
As if a reminder of better times, the 84 Olympic logo and rings stand tall over Sarajevo to this day. Next to it is the Koševo Stadium that housed the opening ceremonies. In between these two Sarajevo 84 Olympic sites are hundreds upon hundreds of graves. This is not an uncommon sight in Sarajevo as the deaths topped 10 thousand during the siege. This left little space to bury the fallen. Seeing the white crosses next to this tour is such a contrasting image, one that I had a hard time comprehending. To me, the Winter Olympics have given me some of my fondest travel memories. Not here.
Off to Igman
As my Auto Europe Car Rental road trip through the Balkans continued, I made my way to Igman Mountain towards the sites in the hills. This included more abandoned and destroyed buildings that I can only assume were once hotels. This tour concluded at the former ski jump hill.
At this last stop on my Sarajevo 84 Olympic sites tour I found the podium used to award athletes medals. Such joy, pride, and celebration. Now sadness and a stark reminder of what war can bring.
As saddening as these former Sarajevo 84 Olympic sites are, I saw them. Sarajevo really is a beautiful city and is on the mend. They bid for the 2010 Olympics in an effort to show how far they have come. Although not successful, they will win it again someday and when they do, I will be there – cheering and remembering.