The bobsledders sported black-and-blue bodysuits and full helmets but the Union Jack plastered on the hull gave them away. The driver, rugby player and British national bobsleigh champion, Tom De La Hunty, and his brakeman, Peter Lund, held onto push bars to rock the bullet-shaped boblet to and fro. “One, two, three—go!” they finally shouted, leaned into the final push, and ran the boblet down the track.

UK Team at Sarajevo 84 Bobsled Race

The two jumped into the fiberglass cowling, and, bending as aerodynamically as possible, tucked in for the run. Twenty years after Great Britain had pulled an upset and won the race in Innsbruck, De La Hunty and Lund stood no chance against the East Germans and Soviets here at the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics—they were in 18th place after two heats, halfway through the race. Snow was falling heavy for a third straight day, turning the world’s fastest track into a treacherous one.

Sarajevo-Olympic-Bobsled-Luge-Track-Aerial

 

COURSE 1
LENGTH 350 M
NUMBER OF CURVES LEFT 1
NUMBER OF CURVES RIGHT 1
PURPOSE RECREATION

This way to the abandoned bobsled track, point the maps and signs and arrows. Built for the 1984 Olympic Winter Games, used as a makeshift military installation during the Siege of Sarajevo, and left to decay in the decades hence, the skeleton of the bobsled and luge track at Mt. Trebević is now a tourist attraction for war trippers and ruin porn addicts.

But over the past few years a team of locals has been working to return the track to its original purpose. Architecture professor, Sanela Klarić, is one of the driving forces behind the effort. “Sarajevo’s identity has for decades been connected with war and suffering, people talk about the past too much here,” she tells me as we walk toward the track on an unseasonably hot May day, thirty-eight years after the Olympics. Just a few minutes out of her car, sweat trickles down my back. Dressed in bright-colored summer casuals and high heels, Klarić scales the platform that housed the push-off area for the bobsled competitions with boundless energy and a seemingly perpetual smile. The athletes’ push time could decide the outcome of the run.

Trebevic-Bobsled-Track-Start

We’re high above the smog inversion choking the city again this week. Everything projects with throbbing clarity and the forest smells sweet. Songbirds muffle the chatter of hikers on a path above (as a mountain within city limits, Trebević is a popular spot for nature-loving Sarajevans). I squint against the midday sunlight bouncing off the concrete.

Downhill off to the right, I can see the steep concrete ramp that plunged from the luge start house where lugers sitting atop their flat steel sleds would push off the ice floor with spiked gloves, lie supine feet first, and projectile through the track channel.

As we descend the track, Klarić walks me through its history—and possible future.