Sarajevo Olympic Bobsleigh And Luge Track – Destroyed By War

sarajevo bobsleigh & luge track

The Sarajevo Olympic Bobsleigh And Luge Track was a purpose built facility on Trebević mountain, overlooking the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Just 10 years after being built, the facility was abandoned as Yugoslavia descended into war. The city of Sarajevo was besieged for nearly four years and the track was left to decay, the bullet holes and damage from the war still visible beneath the graffiti.

The Sarajevo Olympic bobsleigh and luge track

Graffiti adorns much of the length of the track.

The 1984 Winter Olympic Games was awarded to Sarajevo, then part of Yugoslavia and now Bosnia & Herzegovina, in 1978 beating out bids from Sapporo in Japan and Gothenburg in Sweden. It was the second Olympics being held in a communist state following Moscow’s hosting of the 1980 Summer Games. Yugoslavia, under the control of Josip Tito at the time of the bid, wanted to use the event to showcase their country. A commission in 1968 suggested that there was an opportunity to develop Winter tourism in Yugoslavia and Sarajevo was deemed the best location for the Winter Olympics.

The 1984 Winter Olympics were in Sarajevo

The logo for the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics designed into the paving.

No expense was spared in the construction of the facilities which were spread out across 9 venues in the locality. The bobsleigh and luge track was built on Trebević mountain. The alpine skiing venues of Bjelašnica and Jahorina were already popular ski resorts. Igman hosted cross country skiing and ski jumping. The Zetra Ice Hall and Zetra Ice Rink were purpose built venues for skating. Skenderija was an existing arena expanded for the games and Koševo Stadium was an existing stadium expanded for the opening ceremony.

The games themselves were largely uneventful, although notably, Austria struggled to win medals and Torvill & Dean wowed the crowds with their perfect scores across the board score for artistic impression in figure skating. A slight hiccup in the opening ceremony meant the Olympic flag was raised upside down.

The bobsleigh and luge events were held on a purpose built track on Trebević mountain which looks over the city of Sarajevo. The design had been completed in 1981 and began construction soon after. It was completed just over a year later and saw huge crowds during the Winter Olympics. The track remained in use until 1991 when the Yugoslav Wars put an end to all events. It was damaged during the Siege of Sarajevo in 1992 and was used as an artillery position for the Bosnian Serb forces.

The abandoned Sarajevo OIympic Bobsleigh and Luge track

The track snakes into the trees. It was used as an artillery defensive position during the Yugoslav Wars.

Part of the abandoned Sarajevo bobsleigh and luge track

The brake run of the track. The associated buildings have all been destroyed.

Bosnia-Herzegovina suffered greatly during the Yugoslav Wars. Large parts of cities like Mostar and Sarajevo were destroyed. All of the Sarajevo Olympic venues were damaged in the war apart from the Jahorina ski resort. The Zetra Ice Hall was completely destroyed. At the closing ceremonies of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in Norway, International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch commented on Sarajevo’s situation. The Zetra Ice Hall was rebuilt in 1997 and renamed the Olympic Hall Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Zetra Ice Hall

The Zetra Ice Hall during the Siege of Sarajevo in 1995. Note the graveyard in the foreground.

Zetra Ice Hall Now

The Zetra Ice Hall which has now been rebuilt and renamed Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic Hall.

The Sarajevo Olympic Bobsleigh And Luge Track remained closed for a number of years after the war, with extensive graffiti, overgrowth and damage caused by artillery fire. Removal of landmines began in 2014, making the site suitable for renovation with support from the International Luge Federation. With the track itself in a serviceable condition, Summer training has been able to resume. With the refrigeration plant and associated infrastructure destroyed, Winter events are not possible in the short term. It is hoped that the track can one day be returned to its former glory. The government of Bosnia-Herzegovina has even suggested that Sarajevo might bid for the Winter Olympics at some stage in the future in an effort to show that adversity can be overcome and cities can rebuild.

Location: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina 🇧🇦
Abandoned: 1991


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