International sports competition, XIV Winter Olympic Games Sarajevo ’84 was the largest and most interesting sporting event ever held in former Yugoslavia.
Until then, Sarajevo had not developed facilities for winter sports on snow and ice. There were 2 modest ski lifts and one hotel on Jahorina, but everyone was aware that both Jahorina and Bjelašnica had extremely favorable resources for the development of winter sports.
On 19 May 1978 in Athens, the International Olympic Committee voted Sarajevo to be the host of the XIV Olympic Games. At the time, Sarajevo was one of the 12 cities which hosted Winter Olympic Games. For the first time in history of Radio Sarajevo, the program was interrupted to announce the good news to all citizens.
Everyone got involved; the City, the Republic and the whole of former Yugoslavia as well as ordinary citizens who wanted to make a contribution. There were 10,450 volunteers, 4,000 companies and over one million individual donors involved in organization of the Games.
The sports story which changed and marked the history of Sarajevo started with the opening ceremony on 8 February 1984 from 14:30 to 16:06. For the first time in history, a woman, Croatian ice skater Sanda Dubravčić lit the Olympic flame. Until then, it seemed as if Sarajevo was to host Summer Olympic Games, but at 14:55, when the Olympic flame was lit, it started to snow.
On that same day, the Olympic Museum was opened in Sarajevo.
The participants competed on the sports fields of Jahorina, Bjelašnica, Igman and Trebević and in sport halls Skenderija and Zetra in Sarajevo.
The Games included 39 events with 1,272 athletes from 49 different countries (274 female and 998 male). Once again, Sarajevo becomes the place where East meets west, as representatives arrived from both eastern and western block countries.
The Games surpassed all the previous ones by the number of participants and the success of execution. OG Winter ’84 was followed by over 7,500 media representatives from 41 countries and it is estimated that TV coverage was seen by more than 2,5 billion viewers.
In addition to sports competitions, the famous Sarajevo spirit of hospitality was crucial and evident. The atmosphere in the city was unforgettable. The Olympic Valentine’s Day is still remembered, when on 14th February Sarajevans celebrated Olympic Silver Medal won by the young Slovenian skier Jure Franko. It was the first and only medal won by Yugoslavia. In their own way, people of Sarajevo expressed appreciation for their “Knight of White Trails” with the slogan “Volimo Jureka više od Bureka” (We love Jurek more than burek). The Olympic Comitee decided to move the awards ceremony for this race from Bjelašnica to the large plateau of Skenderija Center, where around 20,000 Sarajevans attended.
The games were closed with a ceremony which took place in Zetra Hall on 19 February at 20:00.
At the IOC session in July 1984, the delegation from Sarajevo submitted their final report on the organization of the Winter Olympic Games, and in response, they received an official statement confirming those were the best organized Winter Olympics to date.
After the Olympics, the decision was taken to extend the winter break for schools from 15 to 30 days, to enable families to spend more time enjoying winter sports.
Eight years after this idyllic image of Sarajevo and its natural beauty travelled the world, Sarajevo is again the center of attention, but this time as the largest concentration camp in the modern history of mankind.
Sarajevo Olympic spirit is still alive; the ski slopes are almost fully rebuilt but the images of war destruction are still evident on Trebević with its destroyed bobsleigh track and on Igman where there were three jumping hills. In addition, the Olympic Museum in the city is still not fully renovated, while its holdings remain stored on Zetra premises.