Winter Olympics may give a good name to Sarajevo
Sarajevo, Yugoslavia — This Serbian Austrian-Turkish town is about to become known for something besides the assassination of the Austrian archduke and the igniting of World War I. That something is the 1984 Winter Olympics.
''Revitalization'' of the Olympics and putting Sarajevo on the tourist map are the goals of the games' organizers, says the country's public relations chief for the Olympics, Pavle Lukac, a Sarajevo native.
The cost of this Olympic event will be at least $165 million, $100 million coming from ABC's TV franchise and commercial advertising, the rest to be split equally among Sarajevo, the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Yugoslavia.
''Revitalization,'' though Mr. Lukac doesn't put it so bluntly, means restoration of a friendly and relaxed international atmosphere for the games after the multi-nation boycott and armed camp of the 1980 Games in Moscow.
Putting Sarajevo on the tourist map means emulation of mountainous Innsbruck, an earlier Olympic host - and catching up with Dubrovnik, the sophisticated coastal city a 20-minute plane ride away. Until now Sarajevo, with only haphazard train and bus links to Dubrovnik, has been of interest to few foreigners beyond history buffs.
At the same time Sarajevo is being yanked by the Olympics into modernizing, while its heart is preserved for its historical value. Lukac calls this ''defending the purity'' of the city.
Every effort is being made to ensure that high-rise glass boxes don't overwhelm the 19th-century ochre Austrian buildings, and that fast-food stands don't drive out the cafes and artisan shops of the old Turkish bazaar.
The idea is that spectators will come back from the morning events on the slopes 20 miles away, change clothes in their in-town hotel rooms, then walk to the skating competition in the afternoon, and stroll around the inner city's intimate non-auto zone in the evening. That way the city - with its hundreds of restaurants and discos, its hundred mosques, and the workshops of 48 unique handcrafts - is preserved.
As he pilots his Yugoslav-made VW around mountain curves on the way to the Jahorina slalom run south of Sarajevo, Lukac reels off the assets of the area as a Winter Olympics site. Yugoslavia is the first politically ''nonaligned'' host. With a population of 450,000, Sarajevo is the second-largest city (after Sapporo , Japan) to hold the games and thus has a life of its own to contribute. It has the best pop orchestras in Yugoslavia, as well as folk singing and dancing. Even though its peaks are only 2,100 meters high, it has reliable snow from December through mid-April.
There's still an enormous amount of work to be done. The $400,000 bob and luge run at Trebevic must be constructed according to a computerized blueprint designed to give thrills but avoid spills. The Alpine and Nordic tracks must be evened out and planted with grass so they will be ''as smooth as Wimbledon.'' Two thousand apartments for 5,000 journalists in the new Dobrinja section must be built, along with hotels and the whole Olympic village of Nedzarici for the 2 ,300 competitors, 2,000 judges, and 30,000 spectators.
Supervising the work is a surprisingly small team of 50 paid professionals, including Mr. Lukac and Olympics chairman Emerik Blum, another Sarajevo native, one of Yugoslavia's most successful businessmen and a scion of the once-thriving Jewish community of Sarajevo. This team is supplemented by some 500 volunteers on various committees throughout the country.
Lukac is confident that the organizing ability of the Yugoslavs, as demonstrated in numerous international conferences, will make a success of the Games. And he hopes that after the Olympics, foreign tourists will have acquired a taste for Sarajevo that could make this city a world center for 50,000 skiers at a time.
At present, Lukac points out, Yugoslavia, even with its long miles of Adriatic coast, earns only $2 billion a year from tourists. Landlocked Innsbruck , by contrast, brings in close to $21/ 2 billion a year out of Austria's overall trips could combine Sarajevo with visits to the already popular walled city of Dubrovnik - or even with trips to Istanbul 600 miles to the east.
''Seventy years after 1914 we have the Olympic games, so the world will say 'Sarajevo' again,'' Lukac sums up. ''But this time it will make the world happy.''