If faith can move mountains, then willingness and a...

By MORLEY MYERS, UPI Sports Writer

SARAJEVO, Yugoslavia -- If faith can move mountains, then willingness and a little ingenuity can make them grow taller.

When the Sarajevo organizers of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games discovered the vertical drop on the men's downhill course at Bjelasnic was below the 800 meter minimum, they solved the problem by sitting a four-story building on top of the mountain.


Now skiers start the event from the third floor terrace, right in the heart of the building, and 803 meters above the finish line.

There is no doubt the 450,000 inhabitants of this capital town of Bosnia Hercegovina are right behind the push to make next year's 14th Winter Olympics one to remember.

But whether Sarajevo can overcome the problems which sank the 1980 hosts, in Lake Placid, N.Y., is open to argument.

Critics say Sarajevo has the willingness, though not the know-how, but the town believes differently and will use the experience from holding 10 major pre-Olympic events to iron away the wrinkles for the real thing.


'We cannot perform miracles. We cannot control the weather, for instance,' said Pavle Lukac, Sarajevo's Olympic press chief. 'But whatever is humanly possible to achieve, we will do.'

'Nema Problema' (no problem) is on everyone's lips here.

It is a phrase learned in childhood right after mama and tata (mummy and daddy). It seems 'ima problema' (there is a problem) does not exist in the Serbo-Croatian vocabulary.

But wishing it so does not necessarily mean it is so, and often 'nema problema' means exactly the opposite.

Until recently, Sarajevo's major claim to fame has been the place where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, thus sparking off World War I.

Now there is a new importance to Sarajevo as it attempts to provide the Winter Games with a fresh impetus after the disasters of Lake Placid.

By early March, almost all the Olympic venues will have been tried and tested at an international level-10 events in 59 days-more in the same space of time than for any previous Winter Games center.

The program started Dec. 14-19, 1982, with the world junior figure skating championships at the newly-built 8,500 capacity Zetra Olympic Hall complex.

The men's World Cup downhill ski race was held at Mount Bjelasnica last Friday, followed on the weekend by the European two-man bob championships at Trebevic, where the four-man event is scheduled Saturday and Sunday.


This weekend will also see the staging of the World Cup women's downhill and giant slalom on Mount Jahorina.

There is a heavy schedule next week with Nordic events at Igman and Veliko Polje, which will stage World Cup cross-country races and biathlon events between Feb. 10-Feb. 18, while an international luge competition is slated for Trebevic Feb. 14-20.

Speed skating gets an airing March 3-6 with the world junior championships on the 400 meter track at Zetra, while the European junior group 'c' ice hockey championships will also be staged at Zetra March 3-10.

The 70 meter and 90 meter ski jumps at Igman are not included on the international calendar, but will be tested during this weekend during the Yugoslav national championships.

Come next Monday, it will be one year to the day before ice hockey launches the 1984 Winter Olympic Games.

Major work at all the venues has been completed, apart from some cosmetic surgery, which includes adjustments to the bob and luge track.

But, as Pavle Lukac is so fond of repeating, the Sarajevo Olympic Games Organizing Committee has no control over the weather and mother nature could play havoc with the Games.

Last week's men's downhill had to be postponed for 24 hours and the first two days of training for Saturday's women's downhill have been canceled.


Sarajevo's tiny airport has been made non-operative for most of the past week and although improvements in weather maintenance are planned, the night train route seems the safest bet for competitors and spectators alike.

However, if the weather is cooperative, you can forget all your troubles. 'Nema Problema' is the password.

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