Sarajevo Winter Games venues crumble into oblivion

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Abandoned and left to crumble into oblivion, most of the 1984 Winter Olympic venues in Bosnia's capital Sarajevo have been reduced to rubble by neglect as much as the 1992-95 conflict that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.

One set of photographs shows the venues gleaming with state of the art facilities nearly three decades ago, when Sarajevo made the former Yugoslavia the first communist country to host the Winter Games, beating Japan's Sapporo and Sweden's Gothenburg in the bidding process.

The other paints a sad picture of the bobsleigh and luge track at Mount Trebevic, the Mount Igman ski jumping course and accompanying objects decomposing into obscurity.

The bobsleigh and luge track, which was also used for World Cup competitions after the Olympics, became a Bosnian-Serb artillery stronghold during the war and is nowadays a target of frequent vandalism, still bearing the scars of war epitomised by defensive holes drilled by the troops.

The two ski jumping hills were also never used after becoming battlegrounds, although there are plans to reconstruct the in-runs, expand the large one and build new spectator stands and visitor facilities.

Many areas of Mount Bjelasnica, where Bill Johnson became the first American man to win an Olympic skiing gold after a spectacular downhill run, were sites of extensive combat during the fighting and some still pose a mine risk.

Mount Jahorina, the site of the women's Alpine skiing events is again popular with holidaymakers after its skiing, hiking and sledging facilities were overhauled.

However, Jahorina's off-course slopes were also littered with landmines during the war and many of them remain risky terrain, with a Slovenian paraglider suffering critical injuries when he landed in a minefield in October 2011.

The Zetra Hall, where Britain's ice dancing duo Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean memorably received a row of perfect 6s in front of a packed crowd, was completely destroyed by the shelling and bombing during the war and was rebuilt in 1999 after the International Olympic Committee donated $ 11.5 million for the project.

The bigger Skenderija Hall suffered less damage in the fighting but having been deemed a surplus to the city's post-Olympic and post-war requirements, it was abandoned into disrepair until the local authorities decided to start overhauling it in 2000.

The job was completed in 2006 and Skenderija is again the venue of various sports and cultural events drawing around 500,000 visitors every year, although heavy snowfall made the roof of its ice hall collapse in 2012 and forced another repair.

The Kosevo stadium, which organised the opening and closing ceremonies, was renovated in 1998 and today it is the home of Bosnian soccer first division side FC Sarajevo and the country's national team. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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