Driving around Bosnia, you get used to seeing “monuments” left over from the war. Bombed-out buildings speckle not only the hillsides, but also the towns and cities–silently disintegrating next to modern and repaired structures.
One of the largest and most accidental victims in the battle for Bosnia’s freedom is the dilapidated structures from the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. Despite a successful run of events right up to 1991, the Yugoslav wars saw some of the Olympic venues used as strategic artillery positions for both the Bosnian Serb army and Bosnian guerillas. Others were reduced to rubble. After the war most venues were neglected and left to rot, completely understandable in a new nation that had a lot of other problems to chew on.
With this year being the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Olympics and the Sochi Olympics having just ended, many media outlets posted photo-rich features about the ruins, painting them in a grim and desolate, ruin-porn light. Being hobby urbexers, we of course wanted to take a look ourselves.
We first visited the bobsled/luge track, perched high up on a mountain to the southeast of Sarajevo. The track was painted in many places with colourful and rather new graffiti, though not as much as I had expected. Walking around the full length of the track, there were signs of it being used as a campsite, a dumping ground and, surprisingly, a luge track. In many places the floor of the track has been freshly painted, overlapping new-looking street art that is signed 2014. Many of the areas that were overgrown in so many sensationalised ruin porn galleries have been trimmed rather neatly and show signs of repair. There was a significant amount of construction going on outside the entrance to the track, and apparently the site is being readied for use in the 2017 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival.
There were, of course, still areas that were being completely neglected, and hopefully some of the fantastic street art hidden there will be on display a little longer.
Next we checked out the ski jump, labelled on Google Maps as the “permanently closed” Igman Olympic Ski Jump. This venue seems to have been in use relatively recently, though with equipment rental prices this cheap maybe not.
The thing that struck us about both venues was the large amount of tourists that rolled through. The bobsled track hardly felt like a secret discovery, with cars passing through every few minutes, and even a busload of North American tourists who stopped to give it a climb. The ski jump was full of sunbathers, families with kids playing football in the grass, and also ruin tourists like us who climbed to the top.
So at the end of the day, the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympic ruins are hardly neglected. They might not all be getting used in a conventional way, but they’ve definitely hit the tourist radar and will probably see more and more visitors in the coming years. Maybe Bosnia should look into ruin tourism?!