The opening ceremony of the European Youth Olympic Festival 2019
As soon as I left the house, I found myself in the crowd of people going towards the Asim Ferhatović Hase stadium. Everyone was laughing, excited to see the Flame of peace returns again to Sarajevo.
I didn’t mind the crowd, and actually, people were moving quite fast. Or I had that feeling as I enjoyed listening to people talk about the Olympics and smiling. In some 20 minutes, I arrived at the stadium. I had some trouble finding the entrance for media because there were no signs to follow. Luckily, I met a few volunteers and a police officer, who pointed me in the right direction to the entrance for media.
The same place of the opening ceremony of EYOF 2019 as for the Olympics 1984
I had a great seat. The view of the town was amazing! I could even see Trebevic Mountain, one of the Olympic mountains from 1984, and Ozren. It was early evening, so I watched how lights in houses slowly start to light one by one. The brightest light on Trebevic was a cable car, which was reopened last year and now lighten to celebrate the opening of EYOF 2019.
How the beginning of the ceremony was slowly approaching hundreds of people on the stands started to scream and hold their phones high in the air. In the background were playing songs of famous Bosnian singers and bands. The chills ran up my arms. The atmosphere was brilliant!
During the ceremony, all athletes that were participating in the EYOF 2019 proudly walked through the stadium with a flag of their country. It was nice to see so many young people in one place. Especially, as for many of them, this is the first time to visit Sarajevo.
The most spectacular part of the ceremony was the lighting of the Olympic flame which marked the European Youth Olympic Festival 2019 open. The Flame of peace started to burn on the same place where it burned in 1984.
Winter Olympic sports
Athletes competed on Jahorina, Bjelašnica, and Igman mountain. These three mountains hosted a snowboard, biathlon, cross country and Alpine skiing competitions.
Beside on mountains, some disciplines were in indoors. Hockey has been held in Zetra hall, built for the 1984 Olympics. Figure skating was in the Mirza Delibašić hall in a center part of Sarajevo, and carling in sport and business center Peki in Pale.
For five full days, there were so many competitions to follow so you had to have a plan. I was mostly interested in watching snowboard, biathlon, and hockey, and I made my plan around that. Shuttle buses were driving every hour, so I was glad I didn’t have to worry about transpor
I admit I was most excited to watch biathlon live for the first time. It was mandatory and first on my list!
Biathlon competition was at Dvorišta, the same location on Jahorina where it was in 1984, but it was necessary to invest some money to repair the shooting area. This part of Jahorina is further away from the busy ski resort, some 10 minutes of driving. I come often here because of that, as in winter season it’s always peaceful.
During the drive to Jahorina, I ended up explaining this area to other foreigner visitors. I couldn’t restrain the guide in myself. It wasn’t like I was interrupting some local in the talk. Even the driver of the bus didn’t give any announcement when we arrived at the crossroad for Dvorišta and had to move to the van to drive further to the area for competition. Some passengers were confused, so I told them they should exit if they want to see biathlon.
My wish is that everyone who visits Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time gets as much information as they can, and best experience. I can’t bear to see someone gets less than that.
Female biathlon competition
Don’t expect any sports terms related to biathlon. I don’t have a clue about it. Until now I watched it only a few times on television and got intrigued so wanted to see it live. I decide to follow a female 12,5 km Individual race.
The area for the media had an excellent view of the starting point and area for rifle shooting. I can imagine how well-trained athletes need to be to shoot five targets at 50 meters (I think) with only five shots. If we add to it cold and windy weather, like it was this day, then it’s twice as hard to do it. There was no sun at all and the Northwind was blowing. I didn’t stand to be more than a few seconds without gloves.
The start of the race was exciting and as well as shooting. As it was quite cold to stand at one place, after a few hours I decided to wrap it up. I managed to take good photos, so I head back to the main road on foot to wait for a shuttle bus.
Bjelašnica: Snowboard & Snowmobile ride
The next day I went to Bjelašnica Mountain to watch snowboard and parallel slalom. Or at least that was the plan. You know how in life sometimes new opportunities come unexpectedly. And if we don’t react and grab them, they will go to someone else. We need to have an open mind and be spontaneous!
After a big cup of mountain tee, my friend who was working on the maintenance of trails, offered me a ride on a snowmobile. The snowboard competition is further from here, and my colleague is going there by snowmobile, would you like to go with him? Jasa asked me with a big smile on his face. Yeees, I replied immediately and grab my backpack.
A few minutes later I was standing in Babin do, in front of the coffee place and waiting for Jasa’s colleague to come with a snowmobile. Jasa had to rush towards the trail for skiers. But is it safe and does this guy knows how to drive it? I don’t want to go with some random guy who will drive fast and show off. Just in that second Jasa’s colleague stopped with a snowmobile in front of me. Hop on! He immediately shouted. Hmmm, okay he is Jasa’s working colleague and looks like a normal guy. Let’s do it!
In the first few seconds of driving on a snowmobile, it was strange and quite fast. But later I got used to it. It was fun! Even though it lasted less than 10 minutes, I’m happy I had a chance to try it.
Snowboarding: Cool jumps & tricks
I’m always blown away with cool tricks during the spectaculary high jumps in snowboard contest. The contest at EYOF was no exception. There were so many smooth jumps and acrobatic tricks to see that I stayed to watch snowboard until the end of a female and male contest.
The most impressive competitors were two 16-years-old girls from Norway. They made it look so easy like they were born on a snowboard. I didn’t check what place did they won, but for me, they were the best. I wanted to talk about EYOF, so I ran towards them after they finished with competition.
For such young girls, they are incredibly communicative and relaxed even in front of the camera. I filmed our whole conversation and even had a mic with fur for the wind, but I didn’t test it before. Later, when I wanted to show it to my friend I found out that the video had no sound at all. But, I’m learning from my mistake. Next time, I will double check!
Interview with two Norwegian girls
When did you start to snowboard?
Girls: We were 6 years old. Learning any winter sport at a very young age in Norway is a way of lifestyle. Everybody does it.
Are you satisfied with the European Youth Olympic Festival?
Girls: Yes, it’s fun. This is our first Olympic. We enjoy socializing with other competitors. Majority of them we have met before, on the international contests. We also met competitors from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
What do you think about Bjelašnica Mountain and trails? Are they well-maintained?
Girls: This mountain is very similar to our mountains and ski resorts in Norway. We feel like home. The trails are very good maintained.
What would you say are boys snowboarding more than girls in Norway?
Girls: Boys are snowboarding more, but still, there are more and more girls that decide to try it.
Is it stressful to go to contests and sometimes lose?
Girls: Although we sometimes lose the race, we don’t discourage ourselves. We will win next time. Competing means always going out of the comfort zone.
Igman: Cross-country skiing
The snowboard contest finished and skiers were still on Jahorina. They planned to come around 5 or 6 pm for training. That meant I should stay for two or three hours more to wait for them. I wasn’t interested in doing that, as I was on Bjelašnica from early morning. The sun was going down and temperature as well.
A friend from Klub Spasavalca mountain rescue team invited me to go with them to Igman Mountain to see the end of cross-country contest and meet rest of the rescue team. Instead, with skiers, I could have an interview with competitors in cross- country skiing. Change of plan, but didn’t mind it. It’s good to be a blogger you don’t have a boss, who is telling you how to write your stories.
We arrived at the end of sprint race in cross-country, just before the announcement of winners. First place went to the Polish girl Miranda Skiner. The language barrier stopped me from talking with her. Instead, I had a photo with her.
Meeting a crew from the mountain rescue team
Next hour I spent talking with some cool guys from the mountain rescue team. There were all well- experienced. Before, there was a long process to become a member of a rescue team. You had to be for many years a respected member of some mountain club. It was crucial to have a lot of experience in the mountains as a mountaineer and skier. To be brave and cautious and have the ability to find quick and smart ways to overcome difficulties and save someone’s life.
Today, it seems almost anyone can become a mountain rescuer. You don’t go through demanding courses or need to have a lot of years of experience in the mountains, nor need to be a good skier. But, hey this a topic for another article. Sometimes I am just a nostalgic perfectionist, can’t help myself.
Zetra Hall: Hockey
My friend and mountain guide from Green Visions Eldar has a girlfriend from the Czech Republic. Of course, they are supporting every match when the Czech team is playing. I was invited to join two of them and Eldar’s father, who is a mountain rescue legend (old school), on one match.
The Czech Republic was playing against Switzerland. Only this game and they are going to finals. There was one guy in the Czech team that was so small, and skinny but strong. He succeeded in making a quick pass between the other players. It was brilliant! While I was watching it, I thought, this looks like therapy for anger management, actually, for the release of anger.
The stands were full of fans. The Czech ambassador was jumping after every touchdown. After a very tense game, they won and went into finals to play with Belarus. In the finals, they deservedly won a gold medal. Congratulation!