Sarajevo: Post-Olympic City and Post-War City

July 27, 2012
A photo project reveals long legacies of the Olympics and the war in Sarajevo.

After taking second place in the giant slalom race on February 14, 1984, 21-year-old Jure Franko stood on this concrete podium as the first and only member of the home team to receive an Olympic medal when the city of Sarajevo, then of Yugoslavia, hosted the Winter Olympics. Eight years later, this same podium would be the site of a more grisly event, the executions of countless victims of the Bosnian War and Siege of Sarajevo.

These two separate and wildly different events still have a strong presence in this city, now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Many of the buildings are still riddled with bomb indentations and bullet holes," says photographer Jon Pack. "You can't go very far without being reminded of [the war]."

As the latest iteration of the Olympic Games gets underway in London, Pack is in this former Olympic city of Sarajevo to explore these overlapping legacies for a photo book about cities that have hosted the Games. He's working with documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit, director of the 2011 film Urbanized (we interviewed him back in September). The two are traveling to past Olympic host cities to explore what's left behind by these events – both physically and culturally.

In Sarajevo, Pack says the legacy of the Olympics has become intertwined with the legacy of the war, which raged for more than three years, between 1992 and 1995. Many of the sites and venues of the Olympics unintentionally became sites and venues of the war. Pack says all but one site – the women's alpine run – were affected in some way by the war. Some, like the medals podium, became as if not more significant in the war as they were in the Games.