Sarajevo, February 6, 2015/ Independent Balkan news Agency
By Mladen Dragojlovic
After 31 years the Olympic flag returns to Sarajevo in order to promote European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF), which will be held in Sarajevo in February, 2017.
A week ago, on the closing ceremony of the EYOF 2015 in Montafon Valley, in Austria, majors of Sarajevo and East Sarajevo, Ivo Komsic and Nenad Samardzija, took the flag over and brought it to Sarajevo on Friday.
At the ceremony in Austria, Komsic said that the 2017 Winter EYOF will be the biggest and most important sporting event for Sarajevo and BiH since the 1984 Winter Olympic Games.
“Taking over the flag from the European Olympic Committees, we have accepted the great responsibility of organising the Festival, to promote the universal values of the Olympics, peace, friendship and fair play”, Komsic said.
Official promotion of the flag and EYOF begun in East Sarajevo, on Friday morning, and delegations of two cities met citizens and tourists, dealing the promotional material. A bus with delegations and flag then went through all municipalities of the two cities and finished the trip in Olympic hall “Juan Antonio Samaranch” in BiH capital. The flag was welcomed by young members of Sarajevo hockey and figure skating clubs, which made a short performance on ice.
“EYOF games are games of the young people and I hope that some of you will, in two years, represent our country on this event”, said mayor Komsic.
Samardzija emphasised that East Sarajevo and Sarajevo are on the road to the big sport event.
“We expect that by 2017 we will have spread this positive energy and do everything in order to provide the best conditions for this sport event”, said Samardzija.
Maybe more important than the EYOF is the fact that, with this event, Sarajevo will be reunited through sports. On the beginning of the war in 1992, Sarajevo was split between the Serb Army and Army of the Republic of BiH. Daily shelling of the city, death of many citizens and the departure of Serbs at the end of the war, made cooperation between East Sarajevo and Sarajevo impossible for several years. A few years ago, the initial idea of the candidature of two cities for hosting the Olympic games was condemned by both sides. This was followed by a second initiative that was successful and relations between the two cities improved. Now, the situation is improving and cities begun to cooperate not just in sports, but in other activities which will improve the everyday life of the people.
How deeply divided East Sarajevo and Sarajevo are is illustrated by the fact that more than two decades after the war there was no bus line for skiers from Sarajevo to Jahorina Olympic centre, which is in East Sarajevo, on the Republic of Srpska territory. Their exclusive territory for skiing were the mountains Igman and Bjelasnica, while for skiers from East Sarajevo it was Jahorina. This has changed this year and buses from Sarajevo begun to drive to Jahorina. Most optimistic prediction is that after EYOF, at least the ski resorts on these three mountains will start cooperating closer than before.