Sarajevo Olympic Bobsled Run, 30 Years Later

Sarajevo Olympic Bobsled course, June 2011

The 22nd Winter Olympic Games officially get underway today, just one day shy of the 30th anniversary of the opening of the 1984 Games in Sarajevo. Above, a shot of what the bobsled run looks like today, part of the Bosnian capital’s Olympic legacy.

Constructed in 15 months at a cost of 563,209,000 Yugoslav Dinars (US$4.5 million), the bobsled and luge facility on Trebević Mountain, which overlooks the city from the south, was a major point of pride for Yugoslavia’s Winter Olympic organizers. The venue hosted 30,000 spectators for the bobsled competition, and 20,000 for the luge.

Eight years and two months after the Closing Ceremonies it served as a Bosnian Serb artillery position during the siege of Sarajevo which ultimately killed more than 10,000 people. These days the facility’s visitors include young lovers, tourists, an occasional shepherd and plenty of graffiti artists.

Here’s a 17-photo slideshow with shots taken when I visited in June 2011; I posted briefly back then with a link to a video of a four-minute high-speed walk down the run, but haven’t yet posted these photos.

With chirping birds as my guides along the battered and bruised concrete monument, it was a peaceful stroll through a landscape well on its way to becoming a reclaimed forest. It was surreal, too; I felt as if I was walking through a set of a post-Apocalyptic film.

And below, a four-minute video, the Trebević Mountain Polka. Enjoy the stroll.

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  1. Maria Falvey says

    Bob there’s a great book you might enjoy, “The World Without Us” – focuses on what the current, modern world would be like without us… similar to feeling to reading this post and viewing the slide show… reclaimed forests in urban areas and yes, a sense of being on a movie set.
    Great post.

    1. Bob R says

      Thanks, Maria, an excellent suggestion. I just ordered it.

  2. Erin says

    I just love stuff like this! It must feel so eerie on the site. I love the juxtaposition between graffiti street-art and forest, fighting one another for turf. Signifies that struggle between man & nature and how quickly we are overtaken by a stronger force. Very cool post, Bob.

    1. Bob R says

      Thanks, Erin. Not so much an eerie feeling as just a pervading feeling of everything being a little out of balance.

    2. Leigh says

      They executed people in that track.

  3. Roma says

    I can’t imagine what it’s like hurtling down that narrow passage at 80 mph. Can’t believe this is so freely available to the public! So cool!

  4. Tam @ Travelling Book Junkie says

    The pictures really made me sit back and think…what a waste! Great post! 🙂

  5. It’s too bad a venue that cost so much money to construct was just abandoned. It makes me wonder how many more facilities are forgotten about.

  6. Gabor Kovacs says

    I really loved this post! This bobsled facility is like a mirror image of the sad history of this region. As I am Hungarian, and this horrible civil war took place almost next our borders, the memories live vividly in me. Thanks for sharing with people stories from this part of the world!

    1. Bob R says

      You should check out Sarajevo the next time you are in this part of Europe. It’s a fabulous city with an extremely rich history. The war was only one sad recent chapter.

  7. Jonny Jenkins says

    Fantastic photos Bob. Incredible to see how nature can reclaim such an iconic human feat in such a short period of time. 30 years is barely a blink of the eye in geographical terms. If you get a chance, check out the documentary series ‘life after people’ … It’s entire premise is exactly this, how nature reclaims the world that we leave behind.

    1. Bob R says

      Exactly – 30 years isn’t >>that<< long. Walking through here I felt as though I was on the set for the next Planet of the Apes remake.

  8. tinica says

    I visited first visited Sarajevo and Mostar back in the mid-80s, watched in horror as these beautiful places were shelled, and returned five years ago to revisit the forlorn Olympic sites, which made me so sad, and the re-built Stari Most of Mostar, which made me so happy. I intended to go o Višegrad to see the bridge on the Drina made famous by Ivo Andrić, but a road detour and signs in Cyrillic left that for another time, maybe when I’m not driving.

    1. Bob R says

      I really enjoyed Sarajevo and also left plenty for another time. Especially other parts of the country. Really looking forward to returning.

      1. tinica says

        As an American with limited language skills and a terrible map, there were swaths of BiH where I felt distinctly unwelcome. I wanted to visit Tužla, got lost, and based on the reactions when I asked for directions, felt in my gut it might not be the best idea for a Jenki žena. Other places I thought would be tricky – Goražde, Foča – were much friendlier than I expected. Got petrol in Gacko, across the road from a nuclear reactor, and I think the girls who ran the station/cafe were exotic dancers by night. Bless them, they had to explain the currency to me and as I’d used a card for the gas, they could have given me a bill for almost any amount and I wouldn’t have known – but they didn’t. My Bosnian “sisters” looked after me, an amerikanka driving through. They were awesome and pumped petrol in heels 🙂

        Mostar is a beautiful spot, even if some of the bazaar stalls sell junk. I was just amazed that bridge was exactly as it had been in 1986.

  9. Anonymous says

    This could be the beginnings of a long term series for you. “After the Games” I love street art and graffiti. So interesting. Thank you. ?

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