Sarajevo readies for Winter Olympics


SARAJEVO, Yugoslavia -- As leading winter sports athletes arrive for next week's Winter Olympic Games, officials Friday said Yugoslavia is hoping to reap long-range benefits from new facilities built for the world event.

The immediate return for hosting the 14th Winter Games, scheduled to run from Feb. 7 to 19, is an expected hundreds of thousands dollars spent in the country by athletes and spectators.


Officials say Yugoslavia hopes the $160 million in new sports facilities and preparations for the unaccustomed influx of foreigners - paid for partly in local taxes -- will provide long-range benefits by attracting tourists for years to come.

The Yugoslav government has a $19 million debt to the West and is facing shortages of essential goods and high inflation.

Pavle Lukac, Sarajevo's public relations official, summed up the East European country's approach to the games with a reference to the Olympic symbol, five colored rings on a white ground.

'I think of the Olympic rings as flying saucers, because without them, we'd never be traveling so far,' he said.

When the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Sarajevo in May 1978, the only facilities available in the wooded valley were the ski slopes of Mount Jahorina, where the women's alpine events will be run, and a jumping hill at Mount Igman, site of the Nordic competitions.


Since then, a bob and luge (tobogganing) run has been built along with ice hockey and skating facilities at the downtown Skenderija and Zetra centers and an alpine ski course established for the men's events on Mt. Bjelasnica.

The new Alpine facilities will form the backbone of Sarajevo's attempt to lure lucrative business away from the traditional tourist centers in Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy.

Marc Hodler, president of the International Ski Federation and president of the Winter Sports Federation, said he is pleased with the work.

'My delegates are very happy with how the organization works and they are especially satisfied with the systems for preparing the courses. After having seen Bjelasnica, the cross-country field and the jumping stadium, I am very optimistic,' he said.

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