Exploring the Abandoned Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Bobsleigh Track
For as long as we have been interested in Urban Exploration we have wanted to head over to Sarajevo and explore the abandoned Bobsleigh track from the 1984 winter Olympics that were held in the city. Not only does the idea of a such a ghostly structure sitting above the city interest us as an exploration, but the history here is an added element that really makes such adventures that much more intense. A few years ago I could have never imagined that we would be setting off to hike up to what was a dream urban exploration, Sarajevo just wasn’t somewhere we were going to go in isolation. But whilst planning our backpacking route through the Balkans it was one of the first things we added to our list of destinations!
History: The Track During the Olympics
Built on the Trebevic mountain above Sarajevo for the 1984 winter Olympics, the track was completed in 1982 after designs were approved only a year earlier. The track hosted both the Bobsleigh and the luge competitions and attracted a crowd of over 30,000 and 20,000 for each sport. The track at the time set the country back around 563,209,000 Yugoslavian Dinar, but the hype and crowds the games brought made sure this was a great investment for the region. Featuring 13 turns and at 1,300 metres long it went on to be used several times after the Olympics for the world cup and other smaller competitions. It seemed for a time that this investment would pay long term dividends for the city of Sarajevo, until history once again turned dark for Sarajevo and the track took on another famous story.
History: The Infamous Use of the track During the Siege of Sarajevo
After the bright lights and hope of the Olympics came the dark cloud of the Balkan war. Famously Sarajevo suffered the longest siege in modern history and these tracks created for the benefit of the Bosnian people became embroiled in the fight. The twists and turns that once hosted the world’s best Olympians in 1991 became an artillery position for the Serbian forces. Holes drilled into the side of the concrete became sniper positions, the whole area was covered in landmines and the track was used as a defensive position to bomb the city below. From being a place of fun it became one of horror and a mechanism for hated.
For so many years the track has been left to rot, the nearby forest taking over and the entire distance covered in graffiti. But there have been recent plans to renovate the track and bring it back into use. This means that once again the track can be a symbol of positivity for the city, although part of me would love it to stay as this amazing hidden relic! But even now you can see where repairs have been done to the track and many of the holes have been fixed. There have been rumours that the Slovakian bobsleigh team have been using the lower section to train on carts with wheels a few years ago. Currently I have heard that the track might be up and ready for the 2017 youth Olympics, but I am not too sure looking at the state of affairs. Either way, more and more rumours seem to be surfacing that I am sure one day they might bring this historic place back to life.
Even today the track sits only a few hundred metres away from the Republic of Srpska, the region in Bosnia where the Serbs live and where they enforce their own rules and laws.
Exploring These Amazing Soviet Relics
Taking the route up was not all that bad, we got the chance to walk through some interesting villages on the hike up and the views from the hillsides of the town were worth it if nothing else. But these views also brought into focus just how exposed the city was from this position and how deadly an assault launched from this mountain would be on the city.
The track itself isn’t all that hard to find and despite being heavily overgrown, the multicoloured concrete walls stand out against the woods just enough to catch your eye. The first section of track you are greeted with is what would be the finish line, complete with original signage still in place. There is no easing into it; you are straight away right into the thick of things.
The track really blew me away if I am honest. I had waited years to come and walk these historic turns, to take in not only the events of the Olympics but also that of the Balkan war. There is a triple hit of interest here, from the double edged history to the idea of such a place of energy being left to sink into the forest, forgotten by time. In that respect it had that creepy feeling to it that I have experienced in abandoned theme parks and hospitals. There is something that is fundamentally scary and yet appealing at the same time above the post-apocalyptic feel these places give off.
The first section of the track that we explored was just amazing, the high and steep turns twisted and turned in rapid secession. The amazing graffiti covered almost every inch of the track and vines crept over the edges, encasing the track as part of the forest itself.
Walking the track itself was actually longer and steeper than we expected; we decided to walk the entire length right the way up til the starting point. Along the way, each section despite being similar offered up different features. There were more overgrown sections which at one time could have been slid into place to change the layout of the track, now frozen in place where they stand. These have had no renovation at all and still contain many of the haunting holes the Serbs drilled into the track to use as a sniper positions.
The high turns continued as the track became steeper and it climbed the hill; you could really imagine the amount of speed the riders would have as they flew around these bends. I really couldn’t imagine how scary but exhilarating it must be! As the track became steeper and the turns less so we knew we were approaching the beginning. The starting position had collapsed, whether that was intentional or as a result of the war or decay we were unsure, but it contributed to the haunting scene.
Walking down from the track we all reflected on what an amazing experience it had been, like stepping back in time to the glory days of Yugoslavia as well as treading in the history of the Balkan war.
How to Get There and Advice!
The track is kind of easy to get to and yet hard at the same time! The hike up there is steep and takes around 2 hours. The majority of this will be on narrow local streets before you get into the forest. The path begins on the other side of the river to the City Hall, past a few Muslim cemeteries and up into the hillside.
My best advice would be to download the app “Maps.me” and download the Bosnia map. You can use this app when you are offline and it will track your position. The track is featured on there so you can just click on there and it will give you the best route.
Google Maps coordinates 43.842503, 18.4424723
Many people will warn you not to go up to the track and although we came across no trouble we did take these warnings seriously. There are several things to take into consideration. It has been reported on occasions that groups of people wait for tourists to mug them, that there are packs of wild dogs and also that the area surrounding the track still has land mines. We decided to head up there anyway but instead of going on our own we went with a group of 5 of us from the hostel. We advise against going on your own and there are tours if you really want to make sure you are safe!