Yugoslav Capital Ready to Stage 1996 Olympic Games
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ What once seemed like a throwaway bid by Belgrade for the 1996 Summer Olympics is now viewed with much more optimism in the Yugoslav capital.
The city’s low-key promotion initially was based on the assumption that Athens was certain to get the Games 100 years after staging the first modern Olympics.
But as the Sept. 18 date nears on which the International Olympic Committee will announce the host city it seems that Belgrade is still in the running.
″We have been assured by the IOC members who have visited our country that Belgrade is a serious candidate for the games,″ Aleksandar Bakocevic, president of the Yugoslav Olympic Committee, said in a recent interview.
Belgrade’s optimism rose after the IOC board meeting held in Belgrade last April when some of the IOC members expressed their open doubts that Athens is capable of staging the games.
The two cities are competing with Toronto, Atlanta, Melbourne and Manchester for the Games.
Before the April meeting, Belgrade had invested about $300,000 for promoting its bid. Since April, the advertising costs rose to $1 million, sources close to the Belgrade city council said.
Belgrade’s bid is based on the fact that the city of about 2 million inhabitants already has about 90 percent of the facilities needed for the games. And all of the facilities would be located within a radius of 10 miles.
It has the Red Star stadium, which can accomodate 100,000 fans, and a nearby one with 50,000 seats. A sports hall with 20,000 seats is to be constructed for the 1994 World Basketball Championships.
Among the sports facilities that would have to be built for the Olympics are a velodrome, a shooting range and equestrian grounds.
If it gets the Games, Belgrade would also have to construct an Olympic village and at least two high-class hotels to accomodate the participants and fans.
Yugoslav promoters say that Belgrade’s other advantages over its five challengers are its location, which blends the cultures of East and West; its temperate climate; and a traditionally good security situation.
Belgrade’s biggest disadvantage, they say, is Yugoslavia’s serious political and economic turmoil. Inflation is high and the central government is faced with separatist movements in several regions.
But organizers remain confident. They talk about what they have and what is planned, even if the Olympics don’t come to the Balkan peninsula.
Among the projects on the drawing board is a subway system to solve Belgrade’s perennial traffic jams and badly organized public transport.
″Belgrade does not need to invest much for the eventual Games. All the facilities which would have to be built are planned to be constructed anyway whether we get the Olympics or not,″ Bakocevic said.
He said that ″Belgrade has strong chances″ of getting the 1996 Games despite wide pessimism at home and abroad.
″Who would have believed that Sarajevo would get the Winter Games,″ Bakocevic said. The Yugoslav city successfully staged the 1984 Winter Olympics.
Belgrade’s previous bid was for the 1992 Summer Olympics, awarded to Barcelona. At the time, Belgrade was surprisingly rated third by the IOC members after the Spanish city and Paris.
Bakocevic said that Belgrade’s long-term strategy for getting the Games consists of being persistant in its bid.
″One day the IOC will get tired of us and they will award us the games,″ a member of Belgrade’s city council joked.