To what extent can deeply divided societies develop integrative and connecting symbols that are transgressing political, social and national borders and division lines? The present text addresses this question by analyzing the discourses and memories of the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics in contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). After examining the discourses around the Games in 1984, the text analyzes the practices and narratives around the official anniversaries of the Games which took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014. It furthermore explores how Olympic symbols are used today in the public urban space in Sarajevo and in East Sarajevo, and how ordinary people from different parts of BiH perceive the Sarajevo Olympics in the present day. The analysis of the official anniversary commemorations shows that the Sarajevo Olympics, a symbol of a united Yugoslavia in 1984, and a symbol of destruction and division within BiH in 1994, have once again become a more integrative symbol in 2014, currently connecting Sarajevo and East Sarajevo. Being officially commemorated and relating to a strong popular memory, both independently from and even across political and ethnic division lines, gives the Sarajevo Winter Olympics an outstanding place in the culture of remembrance of contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Sarajevo Winter Olympics; Historical Symbols; Memorialization; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Identity