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The Architectural Legacy of Sarajevo's '84 Winter Olympics

Updated: Feb 10

The city of Sarajevo hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 1984 was among the most significant events in the history of Yugoslavia. Being not only the first Olympics to be held in the country, it was also the first time any Winter Olympic Games had ever been hosted in a socialist state or in a nation which spoke Slavic languages. Furthermore, the Sarajevo Olympics were unique in that they were not boycotted by any nation of the world and were instead a shining moment of global unity centered around sports, standing in stark contrast to the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics (as well as the subsequent 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics), which were both heavily protested by numerous countries. As such, Yugoslavia, and Sarajevo specifically, felt a tremendous personal responsibility to exceed in every way imaginable in its role as host nation and host city. And for such a historic event, it should come as no surprise that Yugoslavia aimed to populate the city of Sarajevo with equally befitting historic and transcendent architecture to match and mark the importance of this moment when an attentive world would be closely watching them. To achieve such an architectural marvel of constructing a wholly new built environment for these Winter Olympic Games, some of the most innovative and accomplished architects from across Yugoslavia were brought together to work towards this collective goal. This article aims to examine the history and legacy of these achievements of Olympic architecture, as well as the creators who were involved in designing and constructing them.


A map of the many sites, venues and attractions of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo.

However, while many other articles in the past which explore Sarajevo's Olympic sites excessively dwell on the post-Bosnian War ruined condition of many of these locations (while ignoring other aspects of their history, as well as ignoring other non-ruined Olympic sites), this article aims to instead operate as a more holistic historical survey of ALL major architectural works which were created as part of the infrastructure of the Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games. In each entry of the 16 sites chosen for this article, we will explore the site's creation, its Olympic use, its post-Olympic use, how it fared during and after the Bosnian War, as well as its current condition and utilization. In addition, I will include collections of images for each location, both present-day and historical (not just tawdry photos of ruins), so that the architecture of these Olympic creations can be visualized in such a way as to help give a clearer context and understanding of the amazing and dramatic history behind each of them. With this new historical clarity, not only can the legacy of Sarajevo's Winter Olympics be better understood and appreciated, but also the city of Sarajevo itself.

 

Winter Olympic Sports Venues

 

1.) Koševo Olympic Stadium

A vintage image of the opening ceremonies for the Sarajevo Olympics at Koševo Olympic Stadium.
A vintage image of the opening ceremonies for the Sarajevo Olympics at Koševo Olympic Stadium.
A vintage image of the opening ceremonies for the Sarajevo Olympics at Koševo Olympic Stadium.
A recent view of a football match being held at Koševo Olympic Stadium in Sarajevo. Credit: Ulicar/Wikipedia

Name: Koševo Olympic Stadium (aka: Asim Ferhatović-Hase Stadium)

Location: Koševo neighborhood, Sarajevo, BiH

Architect(s): Vaso Todorović & Anatolij Kirjakov (for original 1947 construction), then Lidumil Alikalfić & Dušan Đapa (for 1980s renovation)

Years of construction: Original conception: 1947, renovated in 1966 and 1983

Present condition: Good, used for many events

Description: One of the centerpieces of the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games was the massive Koševo Stadium, which acted as the place which kicked off the entire event with the Olympic Opening Ceremony being held here on February 7th, 1984. While the stadium at Koševo at it appeared during the ceremony was most certainly tailored specifically for the event, the stadium itself dates back as far as 1947. Just after WWII, the architect team of Vaso Todorović & Anatolij Kirjakov devised an enormous "natural" stadium that would fit into the hilly amphitheatre-like landscape of the Koševo neighborhood of Sarajevo. The stadium, which was built largely through voluntary labor from local citizens, post constructed on top of a location that was originally a large man-made lake that operated as a public swimming space, fed by Koševo Stream (after which the new stadium was named). After the completion of the stadium, it operated as the central sporting complex for Sarajevo, hosting not only local events, but major international sporting events as well. When the announcement was made in 1978 that Sarajevo had won the bid to host the Winter Olympic games, Yugoslav planning officials decided that Koševo Stadium would be significantly renovated to better accommodate the expected crowds. These renovations were overseen by the architect team Lidumil Alikalfić & Dušan Đapa. The original stadium had few architectural flourishes or luxuries, so this renovation and expansion greatly modernized the facility and increased its capacity.


As the above photos testify, the 1984 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony held here at Koševo Stadium was full of pageantry and celebration, with articles from such outlets like the New York Times newspaper describing them as "spectacular". Even the huge colorful platform upon which the Olympic torch sat at the top of was an imaginative creation of stunning architectural brilliance, truly operating as a testament to the architectural wonders yet to be seen during this Winter Games. Sources indicate that as many as 45,000 people attended the ceremony and watched the lighting of the Olympic Flame, which burned here at Koševo all throughout the games. The entire 2-hour ABC TV broadcast coverage of the events of the opening ceremony here at Koševo Stadium can be seen at THIS YouTube link. After the end of the games, the stadium went back to its former pre-Olympic use of hosting local and regional sporting events (primarily football matches). Interestingly, as Koševo Stadium remained in territory under the control of ARBiH through the Bosnian War, sources relate that football matches were played here regularly during the tumultuous and violent Siege of Sarajevo. Meanwhile, former sports fields around the stadium were used as improvised graveyards for the thousands killed in Sarajevo during the war.


After the Bosnian War, the extensive damage which the stadium suffered as a result of the conflict was quickly repaired, with a massive re-opening ceremony held at the stadium 1996 by an Olympic athlete organization. Two years after the war ended in 1997, Koševo Stadium famously hosted the British rock band U2 for their "Pop Mart" tour, while Pope John Paul II also hosted an event that same year at the stadium while on a visit to Sarajevo. Today the complex is widely referred to as "Stadium Asim Ferhatović-Hase" (named after the legendary footballer) and continues to host a wide range of sporting and concert events. Future plans are currently being organized to further expand and renovate the stadium.

 

2.) Zetra Olympic Hall

A vintage image of the speedskating rink next to Zetra Olympic Hall in Sarajevo.
A view of the exterior of the Zetra Olympic Hall in Sarajevo. Credit: Julian Nyča/Wikipedia
A 1984 postcard showing the Closing Ceremony of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games at Zetra Stadium in Sarajevo.
A view of the interior hockey rink of the Zetra Olympic Hall in Sarajevo. Credit: Denis Siljadzic

Name: Zetra Olympic Hall (aka: Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic Hall)

Location: Koševo neighborhood, Sarajevo, BiH

Architect(s): Lidumil Alikalfić & Dušan Đapa

Years of construction: 1978-1983

Present condition: Rebuilt after ruins, presently in good condition

Description: As part of the build-up of infrastructure for the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, a brand new indoor ice-rink was constructed adjacent to Koševo Olympic Stadium. Work on this stadium began as soon as the announcement was made in 1978 that Sarajevo had won its bid to host the '84 Winter Olympics. The design for this arena was conceived by the architect duo Lidumil Alikalfić & Dušan Đapa, while engineering work was coordinated by Osman Morankić. Of all of the sports venues built for these Olympics in Sarajevo, Zetra Stadium was the most expensive, costing near a billion Yugoslav dinars to construct. Unveiled in January 1983 for the hosting of the World Junior Speed Skating Championships, the stadium's primary form is composed of six massive steel trusses which support the weight of the entire structure. Over this angular modernist construction was laid copper roof panels while the interior ceiling was left with its girders and utilities exposed. The seating capacity of the stadium is roughly 12,000. Interestingly, the name of the complex "Zetra" is somewhat mysterious and controversial, as its origin and meaning are not clear. The news outlet Radio Sarajevo relates how confusion over the stadium's name even incited some ethnic tensions in Sarajevo. During the 1984 Winter Olympic Games, competitive matches for speed skating, ice hockey and figure skating were held here, including the many medal ceremonies. At the end of the games, Zetra was used to host the Olympic Game's closing ceremonies. Some video clips depicting the events of the closing ceremony can be seen at THIS YouTube link.


A vintage 1980s view of the original untarnished copper roof of Zetra Stadium. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95

In the six years following the Olympic games, Zetra was used for a number of sporting and cultural events. However, as tensions boiled across Bosnia in the build-up to the Bosnian War in 1991, Zetra Stadium hosted a concert called "YUTEL za mir" (YUTEL for Peace), which was an anti-war event hosted by the Yugoslav National Broadcasting Agency 'Yutel'. It was attended by tens of thousands of young people from across the region. Video scenes from the concert can be watched at THIS YouTube link. This was the last major event held at Zetra before it was struck by missiles during the Siege of Sarajevo, which resulted in catastrophic damage to the arena. Also during the war, French soldiers with the United Nations used the burned-out ruins of Zetra Stadium as a military post. In 1993, the Sarajevo pop music group "Aid" filmed a music video for their song "Help Bosnia Now" in the ruins of Zetra, which can be watched at THIS YouTube link. After the war ended in 1995, Zetra was in an extremely dilapidated and damaged state, while the fields around the stadium were used as an improvised cemetery for the many across Sarajevo who perished during the war. Funds were put forward in 1997 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the City of Barcelona and the European Union to reconstruct Zetra Stadium, which was completed in 1999.


A 1990s-era view of war damage at the Zetra Olympic Hall in Sarajevo, with war casualties buried in the foreground. Credit: DefenseImagery.mil

Today, Zetra Stadium continues to operate an ice rink, which is used for a whole host of sporting events, while the arena also hosts many other sporting, musical and cultural events as well. The complex is often referred to as the "Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic Hall", named in honor of the IOC head who worked towards reconstructing the stadium after the war's end. In addition, a modest museum exists within the arena dedicated to the history of Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Olympic Games.

 

3.) The Skenderija Center

Name: The Skenderija Center

Location: Sarajevo, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Živorad Janković, Halid Muhasilović & Slava Malkin

Years of construction: 1966-1969, expansion 1977-1983

Present condition: Good, used for many events

Description: Just west of Sarajevo's city center along the south banks of the Miljacka River is the Skenderija Center, which was used as one of the primary venues of the city's 1984 Winter Olympic Games. However, this venue was not one built exclusively for this Olympics, but was instead a pre-existing indoor arena retro-fitted with new features and amenities to suit the needs of Olympic events. The Skendarija Center was originally conceived in the late 1950s to stand as Sarajevo's first significant indoor arena and large exhibition space. The spot chosen for the new arena was the site of the former bazaar established along the Miljacka in 1499 by nobleman Skender Paša, as well as a mosque which also built on this site by his son Mustafa in 1518. While the mosque collapsed in 1935, the remaining minaret was demolished in 1960 to make way for this new sports arena.


A vintage image of the International Table Tennis Championship of 1969 at Skenderija. Credit: carlotamir.com

The architect team of Živorad Janković, Halid Muhasilović and Slava Malkin won the commission to construct their design for this complex, which consisted of several event halls and cultural spaces placed around a central square. All of the structures were built in bare concrete which were crafted in a hybrid mix of architectural styles, with hints of Internationalism, Modernism and Brutalism, which all came together to create a structure that was distinctively "Yugoslav" in style. The unveiling of this new arena complex, which was named the Skenderija Centar, occurred in 1969 on Republic Day [November 29th], which was presided over by Yugoslav President Jozip Broz Tito himself and was then followed by the premiere screening of the new Yugoslav Partisan war film titled "The Battle of Neretva". Soon after opening, Skendarija's architects Janković, Muhasilović and Malkin all won the "BORBA" award for excellence in architecture, which was the highest professional award for architecture in Yugoslavia. Over the following years before the Olympics, the Skenderija Center was used for a variety of events, most notably the 6th Congress of the League of Communists of BiH in 1973. The first photo in this series shows the Skenderija Center decorated for this event, with a huge picture of Tito front and center.


Photo of hockey match between the USA & Czechoslovakia being played in Skenderija during Sarajevo Olympics. Credit: Getty Images

The Skenderija Center is composed of three primary buildings, the central one being the Central Hall (today called the Mirza Delibašić Hall), the Sports Hall (today called the Ledena Hall) and lastly the Youth Hall. The name of the whole complex "Skendarija" is named after Skender Paša, which essentially translates as "Skender's Place". The first major sports event to be held here at Skenderija was the the International Table Tennis Championship in 1969, with basketball, handball and boxing matches also held here over the following years. However, when Sarajevo won the bid to host the Winter Olympics in 1977, planning officials realized that major expansions of Skendarija would need to be made to accommodate the massive number of attendees, with the main hall being increased to hold up to 6,000 spectators. In addition, a press center and a new state-of-the-art ice rink was built as well, with the latter hosted Olympic events for hockey and figure skating. After the Olympics, the Skenderija Centar resumed its operation as a local sports, cultural and entertainment venue.


A recent interior view of the Skenderija Center in Sarajevo. Credit: Mirza Hasanbegovic

During the Bosnian War and the Siege of Sarajevo, the Skenderija Centar suffered considerable damage, most notably with the shelling of the Youth Hall. The UN subsequently used much of the space in and around Skenderija as a staging grounds for humanitarian relief and supplies. Restoration work began on the complex in 2000 and was not fully completed until 2006. This restoration was accompanied by the inclusion of an underground shopping center beneath the main plaza. However, tragedy struck the Skenderija Centar again in 2012 when heavy snowfall collapsed the roof of the Ledena Hall. This damage was repaired in 2016. Despite these changes and setbacks, Skenderija has continued to be used a venue for sports, cultural and entertainment events. The complex now is even home to several art galleries and nightclubs. Though, the future of Skenderija remains uncertain as BiH government officials are debating over whether to allow foreign investors to demolish the complex to build a new modern facility in its place.

 

4.) Mt. Igman Olympic Ski Jump Complex

A 1984 view of the Olympic ski jumps on Sarajevo's Mt. Igman. Credit: TVP Sport

Name: The Olympic Ski Jump Complex

Location: Mt. Igman, Hadžići, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Janez Gorišek & Vlado Gorišek

Year opened: 1979-1982

Present condition: Destroyed, in ruins

Description: Perched upon the slopes of Mt. Igman overlooking the alpine fields of 'Malo polje' or 'Little Meadow' (approximately 15km southwest of Sarajevo's city center as the crow flies) are the remains of the 1984 Winter Olympic ski jump venue. This sprawling complex was constructed specifically for these Olympic games and planning for its construction begun soon after Sarajevo won the bid to host the Winter Olympics in 1977. Out of 12 submitted proposals, the Olympic ski jump design concept selected to be built was the one put forward by the the Slovenian brothers Janez Gorišek & Vlado Gorišek, who were both not only architects and engineers highly respected at that time for their work creating ski jump complexes around the world, but they were both accomplished ski jumpers themselves (Janez participated in the 1956 Winter Olympics at Cortina d'Ampezzo). Completed in December of 1982, the Igman Ski Jump complex consist of two primary jumps: a large jump (with a K-point of 112m) and a smaller jump (with a K-point of 90m). The jumps were oriented parallel to each other, which resulted in the need for only one judging pavilion. The methods and technology integrated into this pair of ski jumps by the Gorišek brothers and their construction team were hugely innovative for its time and these design approaches went on to become the industry standard over subsequent decades for ski jump design. In addition to the ski jumps, the Gorišek brothers also designed the ancillary buildings around the jumps (such as the Ski Center, the Judges Pavillion, among others), crafting them in a modernist architectural style of sloping and angular features which would complement and seamlessly integrate into the dramatic form of the ski jumps themselves.


From atop Igman ski jumps looking at the crowd below during the 1984 Olympics. Credit: Getty Images/Heinz Kluetmeier/ABC Photo Archives

As an Olympic venue, the Mt. Igman Ski Jumps were a resounding success, with tens of thousands of people attending the events here. The ski jumping events here at Mt. Igman are particularly remembered for famous and notorious Finnish skier Matti Nykänen making his Olympic debut by setting the hill's distance record in front of a stunning 90,000 spectators, while also winning the large hill event by the widest margin in Olympic history. Video footage of Nykänen on one of his runs at Sarajevo's Mt. Igman ski jumps can be watched at THIS YouTube link. After the end of the Olympic Games, there was a considerable increased interest in the sport of ski jumping among the youth of Sarajevo, with many using the Mt. Igman facilities to practice and train. However, during the Bosnian War, the region around the ski jumps turned into a front line of fighting between Bosnian Serb forces and the Army of the Republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Some stories even relate that the winner's podium at the far end of the ski jumps was used to conduct executions, but I was not able to find confirmation of this. Later in the war, UN peacekeeping forces took over the Judges Pavilion as a lookout post. The structure bears their emblem up to the present day.


A current view of the old Judge's Pavillion and Press Center at the Mt Igman ski jumps. Credit: Kathmandu & Beyond
A recent view from the top of the ruins of the Mt Igman Olympic ski jumps.Credit: BosniaHistory@Twitter

By the end of the war in 1995, the ski jumps were left in a completely unusable ruins. Through the 2000s, numerous efforts were put forward to refurbish and rehabilitate the ski jumps, but, as of yet, these have not manifested into actionable results. In 2016, the local municipality of Hadžići, which oversees the ski jump site, has put forward a plan to construct a small 25m K-point ski jump for young people to train on, with the complex's original creator Janez Gorišek even putting forward collaboration efforts. Regardless of the rehabilitation of the ski jumps, the area around the Malo polje continues to be a popular winter sports playground, with downhill skiing, sledding and other such activities.

 

5.) The Bobsled & Luge Track on Trebević Mountain

A 1984 vintage view of the Olympic bobsled & luge track on Mt. Trebević at Sarajevo. Credit: David Madison/Getty Images
A 1984 view of the starting point for the Olympic bobsled track at Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam, 94/95
Image from the 1983 European Bobsled Championships at the Olympic bobsled & luge track on Mt. Trebević. Credit: Ivan Terzić/Wikipedia

Name: Olympic Bobsled & Luge Track

Location: Trebević Mountain, Sarajevo, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Gorazd Bučar (NOT Boreisa Bouchard)

Year opened: 1981-1982

Present condition: Destroyed, in ruins

Description: Nestled within the thick conifer forests of Trebević Mountain just south of Sarajevo's city center are the remains of the Bobsled & Luge Track left over from the city's 1984 Winter Olympics. As Sarajevo was awarded its bid to host the Winter Olympics in 1977, it immediately became clear for local planners that designing a multi-functional and sustainable world-class bobsled and luge track would be one of its biggest hurdles. One of the goals of Sarajevo's Olympic organizers was to make this track not only functional and competitive, but also accessible and engaging for local citizens and spectators, bringing them closer to the action in order to entice them to witness a sport they may have not seen before. The commission to build this new bobsled and luge track was awarded to the proposal submitted by Sarajevo engineer Gorazd Bučar, who was a builder by trade but also worked on the technical faculties of the universities at Sarajevo, Rijeka and Osijek.


Before continuing, it is important to emphasize Gorazd Bučar as the creator of this impressive Olympic bobsled facility, as an internet-age error has led to his contribution to the legacy and achievement of this work being marginalized. This problem arose when the English-language Wikipedia page for the Sarajevo bobsled track cited a 1984 Winter Olympic American broadcast which mentioned Bučar as the architect of the complex [spoken at the video's 10 second mark]. However, in their writing, I discovered that the author of the Wikipedia page transcribed the American announcer's horrible pronunciation of Bučar's name from the video as "Boreisa Bouchard". Consequently, over the years, hundreds of global publications (on the internet and in print) cite this made-up non-existent person "Boreisa Bouchard" as the bobsled track's creator, leaving Gorazd Bučar all but forgotten other than in informed regional articles written in languages of the former Yugoslav region.


The bobsled and luge track at Trebević was completed in September of 1982, with the first major event, the European Bobsled Championships, being held here four months later. The track itself was innovative in its design and construction. Firstly, the track itself was laid through a process called "shotcrete" (the first instance of this process being used on a bobsled track), which is a system of projecting a slurry of concrete via a sprayer onto the given steel reinforced structure. This process greatly reduced costs compared to the traditional process of pouring concrete. In addition, a system a small shiftable track sections allowed the track to quickly and easily be turned into one large single 1,570m track or three smaller tracks, depending on the needs of the given competition. What was also unique about this track is that it was designed for use by both bobsledding and luge competitions, a cost-saving design modeled off of the 1976 Innsbruck Olympic track that would become the global standard for all future downhill track designs. Meanwhile, pedestrian trails were positioned along the majority of the track's length, as well as multiple bridge crossings, all for allowing spectators closer access to the action of the bobsled and luge athletes. As a piece of engineering and architecture, Gorazd Bučar's track was widely praised, both by Olympic officials and by international bobsledding and luge experts. At the time, it was among the fastest and steepest tracks in the world, making it a highly desirable asset to the world bobsledding and luge community. Video of the bobsled competition during the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics can be watched at THIS YouTube link.


A recent view of the ruins of the bobsled track from the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Credit: Florian Rimml

While the track continued to be used for various bobsled and luge competitions in the few years after the 1984 Olympic Games, as the Bosnian War began in the early 1990s, the area where the track is located became part of the frontline of the Siege of Sarajevo. The Bosnian Serb army used the bobsled track as an offensive position from which to fire artillery. In some cases, holes were even punched through the concrete of the track in order fire weaponry. After the war, the track was left in a largely derelict and unusable state. During the subsequent years through the 2000s, the track was mainly an object of curiosity for both locals and tourists, who flocked here to spraypaint graffiti on the track and explore its unusual ruined state. However, despite this dereliction, the track is still is still in a relatively intact and structurally sound state, something which was confirmed when Olympic officials evaluated it when Sarajevo made an unsuccessful bid to host the Winter Olympics again in 2010. Today, large sections of the track have been cleared and are commonly used for summer luge training and for downhill cycling. After the re-opening of the cable car up Trebević Mountain in 2018, more people are coming to the area than ever before (both tourists and locals)... as such, many across Sarajevo are calling for the track to be fully restored back to its former glory.

 

Olympic Villages

 

6.) Dobrinja Olympic Village

A vintage 1984 view of some of the housing units at the Dobrinja Olympic Village in Sarajevo.
Damage from the Bosnian War to buildings from the former Dobrinja Olympic Village. Credit: digilander.libero.it
A contemporary view of some of the housing units at the Dobrinja Olympic Village in Sarajevo. Credit: Izet Kulenović

Name: Dobrinja Olympic Village

Location: Sarajevo, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Milan Medić

Years of construction: 1982-1983

Present condition: Rebuilt from ruins, presently good condition

Description: Strategically located directly next to the main international airport was one of the primary Olympic Villages of Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Games: Dobrinja Village. Constructed as both accommodations for Olympic athletes, as well as for members of the Olympic foreign press corps, Dorbjina was a settlement of high rise towers and apartment blocks constructed from scratch for the purposes of these Olympic events. Spread across over 250 hectares, Dobrinja Village consisted of over 2,100 housing units contained within dozens of buildings. The lead designer for this housing complex was architect Milan Medić, who was able to complete this massive project in less than two years. The layout of Dobrinja is characterized by its well-laid grid system of streets and buildings, with ample green space afforded to the center of each block. The whole setting is much more spacious and regimented in its layout than Sarajevo's earlier 1970s-era urban housing projects such as Grbavica. Furthermore, the architecture of Dobrinja is much more expressive and dynamic than that found at Grbavica, with many of the concrete housing units having facades of a much more playful and geometrically intricate appearance. During the games, many journalists related how much they enjoyed staying at Dobrinja, with articles from the era expressing their joy at seeing how far the city went to be accommodating and hospitable. After the conclusion of the Olympics, Sarajevo's government adapted the former Dobrinja Olympic Village for use as apartments for the city's ever-growing population, which was accompanied by an even further expansion of the neighborhood. By the end of the 1980s, Dobrinja had an ethnically-mixed population of about 40,000 residents.


However, when the Bosnian War began, Dobrinja became a frontline and the community was subsequently cut in two by the Siege of Sarajevo. Fierce battles occurred in this neighborhood during the war between Ratko Mladić's VRS forces (who were instituting the siege) and Army of the Republic of BiH. In Dobrinja alone, hundreds were killed and thousands suffered during the course of the war, while untold numbers of homes were completely destroyed. When the war ended with the Dayton Agreement in 1995, the new Inter-Entity Boundary Line (which divided the Republic of Srpska from the Federation) passed right through Dobrinja, even spitting buildings and apartments in two in some cases. However, through this chaos, the former ruins of Dobrinja have largely been rebuilt over the decades that followed and the neighborhood now appears beautiful and vibrant, though lingering scars can still be seen high on the sides of many buildings. Furthermore, the former Olympic spirit can still be found in Dobrinja, for instance, in 2014, a large mural of Vučko (Sarajevo's Olympic mascot) was restored by the municipality in hopes that emphasizing the area's Olympic heritage might work to bring more tourism into the area.

 

7.) Mojmilo Olympic Village

A 1984 vintage photo of a guard at the entrance to the Mojmilo Olympic Village in Sarajevo. Credit: Agence France Presse/Getty
A vintage 1984 view of Mojmilo Olympic Village in Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A photo of the former Olympic Village entrance sign at Mojmilo turned into a sniper warning sign. Credit: Tom Stoddart/Getty

Name: Mojmilo Olympic Village

Location: Sarajevo, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Milan Medić

Years of construction: 1982-1983

Present condition: Rebuilt from ruins, presently good condition

Description: The primary "Olympic Village" location that would house the majority of athletes during Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Olympic Games was the new development of Mojmilo. Located southwest of Sarajevo's city center, just north of Dobrinja, the Mojmilo Village consisted of roughly 600 apartments that housed over 2,200 athletes during the games. Similar to Dobrinja, the lead designer for this project was also architect Milan Medić, who completed this expansive complex in only 20 months, finishing in September of 1983. Mojmilo Village consists of a central square from which long connected rows of concrete housing towers radiate outwards in four directions. Medić engineered Mojmilo with an efficient design aesthetic which maximized space and cost, while still also remaining modern, inviting and attractive to its visiting athletes. In addition to housing, Mojmilo also hosted restaurants, shopping, a Sports Hall for training, entertainment venues and other facilities. A large metal sign shaped like Sarajevo's Olympic logo stood in front of the Sports Hall serving as a welcome marker and main entrance into the village. Armed guards were often posted at this entrance, largely as a means of protecting the athletes, which became a significant concern given the terrorist acts taken against Olympic athletes just 8 years earlier during the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.


A contemporary view of some of the restored housing units at the former Mojmilo Olympic Village in Sarajevo. Credit: Stefano Perego
A recent photo of the former entrance sign to Mojmilo Olympic Village in Sarajevo. Credit: Orjena Kovačević

After the games were over, Mojmilo Village was transitioned into residential public housing for the burgeoning and ever-growing population of Sarajevo. Yet, violence began to overtake this new neighborhood as the Bosnian War began in the early 1990s. Severe shelling and artillery fired at this area by VRS forces from their nearby siege lines on adjacent hills damaged and/or destroyed huge sections of Mojmilo. Furthermore, VRS snipers also repeatedly targeted the neighborhood from these same positions, so much so that the former Olympic Village welcome sign was painted with the warning local residents to "Snajper pozor" or "Beware of the Sniper", with an arrow pointing towards their location. After the end of the war, work towards rebuilding Mojmilo began in the late 1990s, largely with the help of the International Olympic Committee as well as the City of Barcelona, who stood in solidarity with Sarajevo during its hosting of the Summer Olympics in 1992. Today, the central plaza of Mojmilo is named "Barcelona Square", while Sarajevo and Barcelona and paired themselves as 'twin cities' since 2000. Furthermore, the Sports Hall, which burned down during the war, was also rebuilt and given the new name "Ramiz Salčin Sports Hall". In front of the hall, the tattered remains of the Mojmilo Olympic Village welcome sign still stand as both a monument to Sarajevo's 1984 Olympics as well as the Bosnian War.

 

8.) Mt. Igman Olympic Village & Hotel

A vintage image of the exterior of the Igman Olympic Village complex. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A vintage image of the interior space of the Igman Olympic Village complex. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A vintage image of the interior space of the Igman Olympic Village complex. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95

Name: Igman Olympic Village & Hotel

Location: Mt Igman, Trnovo, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Ahmed Džuvić

Years of construction: 1981-1983

Present condition: Destroyed, in ruins

Description: One of the stipulations for Sarajevo to host the 1984 Winter Olympic Games is that it provide athletes with a mountain-based Olympic Village for the purposes of acclimating and training at high altitudes. In response, an enormous complex was built right on the edge of Mt. Igman's alpine meadow known as "Veliko polje" (Great Field), which sat at an elevation of 1,220m. Planning work on the Igman Olympic Village complex began in 1979, with the design concept put forward by Sarajevo architect Ahmed Džuvić chosen for the project. Work began in January of 1981 and was completed exactly two years later. The gigantic structure that Džuvić created was an intricate complex containing over 16,000 sq m of floor space, as well as capacity for 512 beds and a separate annex with 43 individual exclusive suites. In addition to these features, the complex included amenities such as restaurants, a nightclub, a discotheque, bars, a sauna, a beauty parlor, TV rooms, a 180-seat auditorium and much more. In addition, a small museum was positioned next to the reception area which was dedicated to a local WWII event known as the "Igman March", where a unit of Partisan fighters marched over this snowy mountain on January 27th, 1942 in order to escape fascist forces. Six soldiers perished during the march, which ended not far from the Igman Olympic Village. More info about this event can be found at THIS profile page.


While many sources describe the dramatically sloping and angular modernist style of the Igman Olympic Village as an adaptation of Dinaric Alps vernacular architecture, an article in a 1984 issue of the Belgrade architecture journal "Arhitektura i Urbanizam" describes the design of the facility in the following terms: "Džuvić based the fundamentals of Scandinavian architecture, which is totally subjected to peculiarities of place and climate, while clad in autochthonous [native] natural materials." While highly geometric and conceptual in its design, it is the heavy use of pine and traditional woodworking and joinery (both inside and out) that bring the alpine lodge-style of warmth and coziness to the building's vast spaces.


An early 1990s image of fire damage to the Igman Olympic Village complex after the Bosnian War.
A contemporary view of the ruins of the Igman Olympic Village. Credit: Barnemax@Reddit

As the Igman Olympic Village complex was positioned right in front of Veliko polje, the location where the cross country skiing and biathlon competitions were being held, the facility was a constant hub of activity and among the most popular alpine locations during the Olympic games. After the Olympics had concluded, the facility was transitioned into "Igman Hotel" and continued to operate over the next six years as a premiere accommodation for skiing enthusiasts from Yugoslavia, as well as all over Europe and even further afield. However, as the Bosnian War began in the early 1990s, the area here around Mt. Igman and Veliko polje became one of the front-lines of the war's conflicts. At the beginning of the war, the Bosnian Serb VRS forces held the Igman Hotel as a strategic position. This initial decline and damages to the structure were worsened when the hotel caught fire and burned in August of 1993, with some sources asserting the fire was started by retreating VRS forces. Later in the war, the complex was used by French UN peacekeepers as a supply base. By the end of the war, Hotel Igman lay in a state of complete ruins and devastation.


Up until the present day, Hotel Igman has remained in its ruined and dilapidated state, with the primary patrons these days being vandals and curious onlookers. The hotel has become a particular site of interest for the 'urban explorer' (aka: 'urbex') crowd, who are drawn to this hulking abandoned mass of concrete and make YouTube videos about visiting the site. Many attempts have been made to sell the hotel to private investors by its current owner ZOI '84 (who define themselves as the "legal successor of the Organizing Committee of the 14th Winter Olympic Games"), but as of yet, no interested parties have purchased the property. In the winter of 2019, news reports indicated that the municipality of Trnovo wished to buy the ruined hotel from ZOI '84 and redevelop it, but it is not yet clear if a deal between these two groups has been finalized.

 

Hotels & Accommodation

 

9.) Hotel "Famos" at Bjelašnica Mountain

A vintage postcard showing the Hotel Famos complex.
A vintage image showing the front entrance of the Hotel Famos complex.
A vintage postcard showing the Hotel Famos complex.

Name: Hotel Famos (today called Hotel Maršal)

Location: Babin Do area of Bjelašnica Mountain, Trnovo, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Slobodan Jovandić & Duška Jovandić

Years of construction: 1982-1983

Present condition: Rebuilt from ruins, with some variation from original design

Description: Just south of Mt. Igman is Bjelašnica Mountain, which was the location where the Olympic competitions for downhill skiing and the slalom run were held. The primary hotel built by Sarajevo's planning commission to accommodate the Olympic traffic at the base of Bjelašnica Mountain (called Babin Do) was "Hotel Famos". The commission to construct this hotel was awarded in 1980 to Zenica-born Bosnian architects Slobodan Jovandić and Duška Jovandić, who was at this point already highly regarded for several notable buildings that he had constructed in his hometown of Zenica [more info here]. Work began on the project in 1982 and was completed the following year in 1983. The 186-bed hotel complex that Slobodan & Duška created at Babin Do was a modernist styled ski lodge dominated by its steeply and intricately sloping roof line, which then transitioned downwards in a series of squared overhanging cutouts to the lower section of the hotel that was clad in diagonally laid yellow pinewood boards. Interestingly, the inclusion of yellow siding and geometric overhangs were architectural features that were used not only here at Hotel Famos, but also at other Sarajevo Olympic sites such as the Igman Olympic Village, Hotel Borik and the Holiday Inn, which leaves one thinking to what degree there was planned coordination (either between architects or from top-down direction) about these unifying exterior features of these separate sites.


A vintage image of the ruins of Hotel Famos during the mid-1990s just after the Bosnian War.
A contemporary view of the rehabilitated Hotel Famous complex. Credit: Vidan@Wikimapia

During the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984, Hotel Famos was used as the primary lodging and accommodating at Bjelašnica Mountain, at it was the first modern alpine hotel built on the slopes of this peak. After the Olympics had ended, the hotel continued to be used by tourists and skiers over the subsequent years. However, as the Bosnian War began in the early 1990s, these mountains around Sarajevo became a place of conflict and violence. Overlooking the entire Sarajevo region, Bjelašnica possessed significant strategic importance, as such, it became a key territory that was fought over between the VRS and ARBiH armies. After Bjelašnica and Babin Do were quickly captured by the VRS in August of 1993, they were just as quickly forced out by NATO airstrikes soon thereafter. A French unit of UN peacekeepers then proceeded to station themselves in the area of Babin Do and used Hotel Famos as a make-shift operations base. Already at that point the hotel was in complete ruins, as the above photo testifies, depicting the French UN forces flying their flag over the destroyed hotel.


In the years since the end of the Bosnian War, the area of Bjelašnica Mountain and Babin Do has been rebuilt and revitalized. In addition to many new hotels and facilities being built to cater to the growing ski tourism industry, the ruins of Hotel Famos were rebuilt and rehabilitated. When it was re-opened in the early 2000s under the ownership of the company ZOI '84, its exterior appearance was altered considerably while it also changed its operating name to "Hotel Maršal", presumably in honor of Marshal Josip Broz Tito. However, the hotel was unable to remain competitive and financially viable, especially as newer and more flashy resorts were built up around it in recent years. As a result, these issues, paired with ownership and debt problems, lead to the hotel's closure in 2017. News reports indicate that forces are in motion to try to re-open "Hotel Maršal", but as of 2020, the establishment still remains closed and non-operational.

 

10.) Hotel "Borik" at Mt. Igman

Two vintage 1984 views of the front facade of Hotel Borik on Mt. Igman. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A view of the ruins of Hotel Borik on Mt Igman just after the end of the Bosnian War in the 1990s. Credit: vlada.ks.gov.ba
A recent view of the altered & reconstructed Hotel Borik on Mt. Igman. Credit: Akta.ba

Name: Hotel Borik

Location: Mt. Igman, Trnovo, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Mladen Kovačević

Year opened: 1983

Present condition: Rebuilt from ruins, but with different design

Description: Hotel Borik was situated on the edge of Mt. Igman's Veliko polje (Great Field), just a few dozen meters away from the Igman Olympic Village. Unveiled in 1983, the design responsibilities for this newly built hotel complex was entrusted to first-time architect Mladen Kovačević. The final hotel product which Kovačević delivered was a modern take on the A-frame ski lodge form. In a 1984 issue of the architecture journal "Arhitektura i Urbanizam", an article about Hotel Borik describes its form as follows: "this pyramidal volume of simple and pure rhyming form is projected on a dark green background of lush conifers, with which it forms a unique and harmonious whole. The author has made significant effort to preserve the ambient values of the existing landscape and to use the elements of traditional architecture of this region to establish a balance between the environment and the modern mass of a new building." Furthermore, the hotel's facade was composed of the same diagonal pine wood siding and geometric overhangs found at Hotel Famos. Containing 95 beds spread across five levels, this complex was used as a supplemental facility for the Igman Olympic Village, with there being close cooperation between the two facilities. Unfortunately, very little information or photographic documentation is available which might give us more detail about the appearance or operation of this hotel during its Olympic era.


After the end of the Olympics, Hotel Borik was used as a general tourist accommodation for the next six or seven years. However, the hotel met the same fate of destruction and devastation that the Igman Olympic Village faced as it sat on the frontline of the Bosnian War. The hotel's location no doubt had strategic value, with news reports of the era relating that the hotel was used by ARBiH forces as a command center for their operations in the Igman region early in the war. But it was in 1993 the ARBiH was pushed out of the Veliko polje region during a VRS offensive in August of that year. VRS forces subsequently occupied the hotel. It was most likely in the aftermath of this conflict that Hotel Borik was burned and destroyed. In 2009, the ruins of Hotel Borik were rehabilitated, however, the completed restoration bore almost no resemblance to the former hotel. Not only was the A-frame triangular shape of the hotel flattened and removed, the hotel's original modernist angular facade was exchanged for a more traditional design. However, despite this renovation, the hotel has never been put into operation, with it instead sitting vacant for more than 10 years now. News reports indicate that the owner of the hotel is ZOI '84, who bought the hotel in 2012 from Sarajevo Osiguranje. I found no articles indicating any tentative plans for the hotel's opening and I have seen no images showing the current interior state of the hotel.

 

11.) Hotel Vučko, Jahorina Mountain, Sarajevo, BiH

A vintage Yugoslav-era view of Hotel Vučko at Jahorina Mountain near Sarajevo. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of Hotel Vučko at Jahorina Mountain near Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the interior of Hotel Vučko at Jahorina Mountain near Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the interior of Hotel Vučko at Jahorina Mountain near Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95

Name: Hotel Vučko (aka: The "Feroelektro" Resort)

Location: Jahorina Mountain, RS, BiH (near Sarajevo)

Lead Architect(s): Zlatko Ugljen [profile page]

Year opened: 1983

Present condition: Demolished in late 1990s

Former coordinates: 43°44'08.6"N, 18°34'06.3"E

Description: One venue that received significant development in the lead up to the Winter Olympics was the area around Mount Jahorina, which was set to host a multitude of skiing events. At the base of the mountain near the Poljice ski lifts, a lodging complex was commissioned that would operate in part as resort accommodations for workers of the "Feroelektro" company, as well as serving luxury rooms for high profile guests. Ultimately named "Hotel Vučko" after the mascot of the Sarajevo Olympic Games, this hotel was designed by Sarajevo architect Zlatko Ugljen [profile page], who at this point in his career had earned a solid reputation in the arena of hotel design.


Completed the year before the start of the Sarajevo Winter Games in 1983, Ugljen's 25-bed hotel consisted of a rustic-feeling ski-lodge-influenced complex which brought him back to his signature style of blending together the three elements of landscape, tradition and modernity. Firstly, Hotel Vučko is designed with steeply pitched roof lines that reach nearly to the ground, which not only operate to effectively shed the winter's heavy snow, but they also serve to make the hotel appear to merge with the terrain as if the forest landscape and the hotel are one (an effect particularly noticeable when the ground is heavy with snow). This roof rested upon a framed structure dominated by bare unpainted yellow pine wood (from floor, to ceiling, to furniture), itself serving as a testament to the pine forest within which the hotel snugly rested. In addition to these bold thick pine beams supporting the sharp roof, this warm wood was complemented by elegantly cooling white plaster walls that would not only hearken back to traditional regional architecture, but would also bring in the brightness of reflected snow even on the most dreary of winter days. It bears noting that in crafting Hotel Vučko, Ugljen exercised his architectural philosophy of "total design", where he not only had his hand in creating the structure of the building, but also its interior design, its furniture, its ornamentation and much more. In a 2001 interview Ugljen made with Oris Magazine, he explained this approach in his design towards Vučko: "With the hotel on Jahorina, I abandoned the rigid guidelines of hotel building. I broke the usual sequence and thus avoided that sterile atmosphere, placing the guest at the center of things. I created an environment which agrees with the locality. I insist on the sensations produced by the primary form [the hotel] be reproduced from within by secondary forms, such as roof or ceiling structures, light wells, niches, the fireplace, and so on. Furniture can also be incorporated in a similar function." As such, Ugljen expressed his holistic modern vision of the "mountain lodge" within every facet of Hotel Vučko, making it a supreme example of his all-encompassing architectural philosophy.


A recent photo of the NEW Hotel Vučko on the site of the former Hotel Vučko on Jahorina. Credit: Almir Ribic

During the Olympic Games in 1984, Hotel Vučko was a massive success, with it reportedly hosting not only the President of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch, but also the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf. What was completed for the Olympics was only the intended "1st Phase" of the project... subsequent phases were supposed to expand the hotel up to the capacity of 100 beds. However, just a few years after the conclusion of the Olympics, the dismantling of Yugoslavia began which sparked and chain of events that subsequently lead to the Bosnian War starting in the early 1990s. During the course of the war, Hotel Vučko was left in a state of complete ruin, as the areas around Jahorina were often the frontlines of conflict. After the war, the ruins of the hotel were demolished. In 2008, a new "Hotel Vučko" was built on the site of Ugljen's former hotel. The new hotel bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original, with it being larger in size and much more conventional in its architectural design.

 

12.) Hotel Jahorina at Jahorina Mountain

A vintage 1984 Olympic postcard showing Hotel Jahorina on Jahorina Mountain, near Sarajevo.
A present-day view of the ruins of Hotel Jahorina at Jahorina Mountain. Credit: Mapio

Name: Hotel Jahorina

Location: Jahorina Mountain, RS, BiH (near Sarajevo)

Lead Architect(s): Vinko Jurik

Year opened: 1975

Present condition: Destroyed, in ruins

Description: Southeast of Sarajevo is the large mountain of Jahorina. During Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Olympics, Jahorina hosted the downhill skiing and slalom run competitions, which, of course, was something that required considerable infrastructure to host. However, Jahorina already contained a considerable amount of resources for staging such an event, as the mountain hosted the European Cup for Men and Women’s World Cup skiing competitions in 1975, making it one of the few Sarajevo competition sites that was "ahead-of-the-game", so to speak, when it came to Olympic infrastructure. One of the primary sites constructed in 1975 for those first rounds of international skiing competitions was "Hotel Jahorina", designed by architect Vinko Jurik. With available 320-beds, it was the largest and most modern hotel on the mountain, making it one of the central sites of operations and accommodation at Jahorina during the Olympics. Hotel Jahorina was a particular hub of activity as a result of it being used to stage the mountain's main press center (which was coordinated by Sarajevo's 'Oslobođenje' newspaper).


Hotel Jahorina continued to operate as the primary ski resort hub for the mountain up until the start of the Bosnian War in the early 1990s. During the war, the hotel was used to house refugees and other displaced persons. The hotel nearly made it to the end of the war until, sources relate, an accidental fire broke out there in September 1995. As of 2020, all the remains of Hotel Jahorina is its burned-out ruins, which sit directly next to the modern ski lifts which regularly operate for the Jahorina Ski Resort. Hotel Jahorina's concrete remains often played host to curious thrill-seekers and the 'urbex' crowd, who make videos of themselves exploring the hotel's ruins, some of which can be seen at THIS YouTube link. However, in July of 2020, the ruined complex was purchased through a joint deal between the Novi Sad company “Galens” and the Foča company “Pavord” for 1.8 million euro. Shortly after, the ruins were demolished and razed to the ground. These companies are currently planning to build a new 56 million euro “Hotel Jahorina” that will be a modern luxury ski resort accommodation. As of 2022, this project is still in its funding phase.

 

13.) The Holiday Inn at Sarajevo

A vintage 1980s postcard showing the exterior of the Holiday Inn Hotel in Sarajevo.
A vintage 1980s image showing the interior of the Holiday Inn Hotel in Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A vintage 1980s postcard showing the interior of the Holiday Inn Hotel in Sarajevo. Credit: personal collection

Name: Holiday Inn Hotel

Location: Sarajevo, BiH

Lead Architect(s): Ivan Štraus

Years of construction: 1982-1983

Present condition: Good, restored and rehabilitated

Description: The most significant hotel constructed in the city of Sarajevo as part its early 80s campaign of Olympic infrastructure construction for the 1984 Winter Games was the "Holiday Inn Hotel". Early on in the planning process, Sarajevo's Olympic planning committee knew that it had to create a landmark structure in the city that would capture the public's imagination and operate as a symbol to the world that it was indeed a "modern Olympic destination" to stand among those others of the world. Originally designated as the "Olympic Hotel", the design competition to decide who would create the hotel was won in 1979 by Bosnian-Slovene architect Ivan Štraus, who at that time was already among the most accomplished architects in Yugoslavia. Situated right in the center of Sarajevo's Marijin Dvor neighborhood (just west of the city center along the Miljacka River), construction work on the hotel, which was closely coordinated by Štraus, began in 1981 and was completed by the end of 1983. Before its opening, much thought was given to the hotel's name and branding. To better "internationalize" the project, a deal for naming rights was made with the American-based "Holiday Inn" hotel company, which at that time was among the largest hotel chains in the world. In addition, this was to be the first international hotel franchise to ever operate within Bosnia.


Upon the Holiday Inn Hotel's unveiling in 1983, many people were surprised by its unique modernist appearance. Firstly, the most striking feature of Štraus' cube-shaped hotel when seen by viewers for the first time is the bright yellow color of its aluminum panel siding, which are paired with a facade dominated by geometric overhangs. Sources relate that Štraus employed these overhang features as references to traditional Bosnian vernacular architecture, while he chose the hotel's yellow color as a dramatic means of giving the hotel bold character and visual recognition. Interestingly, these same two features (the yellow color and the geometric overhangs) were also key architectural features on other Olympic infrastructure, such as the Igman Olympic Village, Hotel Borik and Hotel Famos. Meanwhile, many found the interior of t