When the Olympics Games end the structures built to host them are often re-purposed, demolished, or left abandoned after the closing ceremony. Olympic villages are most often converted into housing, stadiums taken over by local sports teams. In the case of the Winter Olympics, many event-specific constructions like the bobsleigh track can’t be used for anything else but Sarajevo‘s leftover 1984 course was used to host the Luge World Cup – until it became a front in the 1991 Bosnian War.
Carefully walking around the main grounds (the surrounding woods are still heavily mined) in a small park area near one of the largest track turns it’s easy to imagine why the invading Serbian army chose this high point behind concrete barrier to shell Bosnia and Herzegovina‘s capital from for nearly 4 years. Inside the remaining walkable parts of the bobsleigh track you can still see marks left by bullets and holes drilled out for sniper rifles.
Very little of the original structure is left, most of it destroyed by war while the rest is slowly being devoured by the forest. In the meantime, teenagers drink nearby while those of varying artistic ability leave their painted mark on the exposed track.
A youth vastly different than that of my guide from HYH City Tour (which I highly recommend) who, only a few years older than me, lost his childhood to smuggling food and supplies into Sarajevo under siege. Optimistically though we move on to Sarajevo’s former Olympic stadium where the next generation conditions their footballing legs in today what is one of Europe’s safest countries. The 2017 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival will be held in Sarajevo where Torvill and Dean recently returned to the same rink 30 years after achieving the only perfect skating score in Olympic history. Given the passion and people who brought me to Sarajevo that have bid to re-host the games twice in the past 6 years, I won’t be surprised when the Olympics returns to its mountainous landscape.