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The BBC's Peter Morgan
"Sarajevo propses a moral campaign for the Olympics"
 real 56k

Friday, 9 February, 2001, 17:42 GMT
Sarajevo wants winter Olympics back
Sarajevo ski jumps
The city's ski jumps would need a lot work for a rehost of the winter Olympics
Sarajevo again wants to host the winter Olympic Games. Our correspondent Peter Morgan went there and heard hopes of letting sport bridge ethnic divides after the wars of the former Yugoslavia.

The Ski jumps on Mount Igman are higher than the Dome on London's St Paul's Cathedral. Built for the triumphant winter Olympic Games of 1984.

At the foot of the jumps, in those happier times, the Olympic flame burned in a cradle constructed for the event, proudly bearing the 5 Olympic rings.

Today only one of the Olympic rings survives. The others were blown away in savage fighting for control of Mount Igman during the war of the early 1990s.

The ski jumps now stand like colossal and forlorn monuments to a time when Sarajevo was briefly known for something other than bloodshed.

At the foot of the jumps you can ride in a one horse open sleigh. The jingling bells strike the only cheerful note in an otherwise dismal scene.

And it was here I met the president of Bosnia Herzegovina's Olympic Committee, Bogic Bogisevic. A bear of a man who smokes continually through a long black cigarette holder. This is the man who wants to bring the Olympics back.

Moral debt of international society

And it's an intoxicating idea. A project that could provide a focus for the millions of dollars the international community has promised for Balkan reconstruction. An adventure which would require recent archenemies in the Bosnian Muslim-Croat federation and the Republica Serbska to work together.

But surely this is a hopeless dream. I asked Mr Bogisevic how his tiny country could hope to compete in the hugely expensive auction which bidding to host the Olympic games has become.

The Olympic flag
The Olympic flag: could it fly again over Sarajevo?

His answer is as straightforward as it is surprising. Sarajevo knows it cannot compete in financial terms, but it is proposing a moral campaign for the Olympics.

The international community, he tells me, stood by and did nothing while the City of Sarajevo was being pounded by shells and its people slaughtered during a long and terrible siege. Now the world has a debt of honour, which it can repay by awarding the Winter Olympic games to the City in 2010.

Bridging ethnic divides

And the Olympics could help bridge the dangerous chasm between the ethnic and religious groups that vie for ownership of this small and combustible corner of Europe.

Although the majority of the winter Olympic events were held in what is now the Bosnian Muslim-Croat federation, some, including the ski slalom and women's downhill courses are in the mountains of Republica Serbska.

Slalom
Some olympic runs lie in the Serb entity, Republica Serbska

Marijana Crancov is a ski champion of the old united Yugoslavian ski team. She's a Serb but can't conceal her enthusiasm for the idea of the winter Olympics coming back here. It would bring everyone back together she tells me.

But it's easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm for the Olympic quest in the crisp mountain air. Back in the City of Sarajevo you suddenly realise what a tall order this would be.

On a freezing night I visited Sarajevo's ice rink, open for the first time since the war. It's not in the sports hall where the British figure skating champions Torville and Dean danced their way to gold in 1984. The City can't afford the electricity for indoor skating any more. This is an outside rink, which will have to shut down as soon as spring arrives.

And then there's the question of the Olympic bob sleigh run, which remains too heavily mined to be approached. The obstacles are indeed formidable.

The Holiday Inn in Sarajevo was built for the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. Sitting in the hotel lounge that has seen the best and the worst of times, it is hard not to be enchanted by the romance of bringing a winter Olympic Games back here.

But even the most ardent evangelists for a second Sarajevo winter Olympics concede there is precious little evidence to suggest the selection process for one of the world's most lucrative sports events spares much thought for romance. Or that the international community hosts any real or alleged moral responsibilities.

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See also:

06 Feb 01 | SOL
Sarajevo eyes second Games
26 Apr 00 | Europe
Football promotes peace in Bosnia
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