Sports en­thu­si­asts re­pair dev­as­tated Win­ter Olympic tracks

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Sports en­thu­si­asts and for­mer ath­letes in Bos­nia have taken it upon them­selves to re­claim some of the glory Sara­jevo sa­vored as host of the 1984 Olympics - and in the process rekin­dled the flame of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion. Since the coun­try lacks the re­sources to re­build the Olympic fa­cil­i­ties that were de­stroyed in the deadly war that fol­lowed the breakup of Yu­goslavia, vol­un­teers bought tools, rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

At first, they planned to re­store the bob­sled and luge track on Mount Trebevic just so it could be used by the Bos­nian na­tional team for sum­mer train­ing. But the pre­vi­ously aban­doned fa­cil­ity be­came a draw for ath­letes from through­out Europe.

“We bought some tools with our own money and started clean­ing the track from veg­e­ta­tion, de­bris and mud,” Se­nad Omanovic, the head of Bos­nia’s Bob­sleigh Fed­er­a­tion, re­called. “We had trees grow­ing out of the track.”

The 1992-95 Bos­nian war was the most bru­tal con­flict on Euro­pean soil since World War II. It took over 100,000 lives and turned more than half the pop­u­la­tion into refugees.

It also trashed the decade-old Olympic fa­cil­i­ties on the moun­tains around Sara­jevo, venues res­i­dents once proudly looked up to from down­town as sym­bols of one of the city’s most glo­ri­ous mo­ments. Dur­ing the war, Sara­je­vans hid from the ar­tillery and snipers Bos­nian Serbs had placed on the Di­naric Alps. War turned the bob­sled and luge track on Mount Trebevic, over­look­ing Sara­jevo, into a con­crete skele­ton that even­tu­ally be­came cov­ered with graf­fiti and trash. Lit­tle re­mains of the ski-jump fa­cil­i­ties on Mount Ig­man, an­other site of fierce fight­ing. The men’s down­hill cour­ses on Bje­las­nica were res­ur­rected as the city’s main ski re­sort, but only af­ter the land mines around them were cleared.

It took Omanovic and his team­mates years to clean the bob- and luge track where in 1984 teams from the Ger­man Demo­cratic Repub­lic took the gold and sil­ver medals. They could only ap­proach the Trebevic track af­ter mine-re­moval ex­perts cleared its en­tire length.

As word spread through East­ern Europe that the Olympic track had been fixed up, teams in other coun­tries ap­proached Omanovic to ask about prac­tic­ing there. The first was from Slo­vakia.

Omanovic re­called frankly telling the Slo­vaks the fa­cil­ity lacked locker rooms, tim­ing sen­sors and even toi­lets. They in­sisted the Sara­jevo track, de­spite its rough his­tory and con­di­tion, was among the best of the nine tracks avail­able around the world for sum­mer train­ing. Tack­ling the course on wheeled equip­ment, rac­ers can achieve speeds of 130 kilo­me­ters (81 miles) per hour. Af­ter Slo­vakia, teams from Poland, Turkey, Slove­nia, Croa­tia and Ser­bia fol­lowed.

“So this be­came a re­gional train­ing cen­ter,” said Omanovic, who now hopes the track will one day achieve its “old glory.” Ja­cob Si­monek, a mem­ber of the Slo­vakian team that has prac­ticed in Sara­jevo six times now, said the track was “a bit bumpy but good” de­spite its age and bat­tle scars.

On the other end of town, the ski­jump fa­cil­i­ties on Mount Ig­man still stand as sad relics of war.

Selver Mer­danovic, a for­mer ski jumper for Bos­nia, has started work­ing to re­vive the two small jumps so the 15 chil­dren from his club team can prac­tice there. Re­build­ing the high jumps, an ex­pen­sive en­deavor, re­mains a dis­tance dream. “I’m try­ing to re­turn this sport to Bos­nia,” Mer­danovic said. “I wish this to be my legacy.” — AP

NE­WARK: Corey Craw­ford #50 of the Chicago Black­hawks de­fends the net against the New Jersey Devils dur­ing the third pe­riod at the Pru­den­tial Cen­ter on Oc­to­ber 28, 2016 in Ne­wark, New Jersey. The Black­hawks de­feated the Devils 3-2 in over­time.—AFP

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