The history of Olympic Committee of Bosnia and Herzegovina and BH Olympism

Olympic Committee of Bosnia and Herzegovina was founded on 4th of June 1992 in Sarajevo. On this historic day for BH sport, well renowned athletes and sport workers, representatives of 20 Olympic sport federations, despite of terrible war circumstances, held a Founding Assembly and elected the members of the first Executive Committee: Mirza Delibašić, Mirsad Fazlagić, Čedo Gojković, Ahmed Karabegović, Dragan Nožica, Anto Raos, Mehmed Sokolović, Miroslav Šipek and Katica Šporer. Mr Stjepan Kljuić was elected as the first President of the Olympic Committee, and Mr Uglješa Uzelac as the Vice President.

After its establishment, OC BiH was already, as an associated member on the 23rd of July officially accepted by the International Olympic Committee, which enabled our first Olympic athletes to find themselves two days later at the Opening ceremony at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, under the BiH flag. Regardless of the modest results of these ten athletes, this moment will be remembered as the golden victory of our sport, which paved the path to full membership in the International Olympic Committee on 24th September 1993.

However, the full membership did not automatically solve all the problems, because at the time some activities in breach of the Olympic charter were taking place, and have significantly been an obstacle to unifying the Olympic strengths in the country. A significant step in surpassing the obstacles was made on 28th July 1999, when under the patronage of the IOC, a Lausanne Declaration was signed, which was the basis for registering the Committee at the Ministry of Justice on 8th December 2002. This meant the end of the process of unification of the whole sport system in BiH, while OC BiH was constituted as the umbrella sport body on a state level. This enabled athletes to enter leagues through their federations, and for BiH to finally have one team at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. 

The history of the Games recorded our first Olympians at the Games in Barcelona in 1992 as Zlatan Saračević, Mirsada Burić, Kada Delić and Dragan Mustapić, shooter Mirjana Horvat, judoka Vlado Paradžik, swimmers Anja Margetić and Janko Gojković, Aleksandar Đurić competing in Kayak and a weightlifter Mehmed Skender.

Four years later in 1996 in Atlanta, there were nine athletes as was the case in Sydney in 2000, and Athens in 2004. In Beijing in 2008 there were five Olympic athletes, and in London in 2012 six athletes. The greatest number of athletes, eleven of them, were recorded in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. So, if we look at all seven Summer Olympic Games there were 59 athletes in total. There would have been more for certain, if those born in Bosnia and Herzegovina did not use their right to change the sport citizenship, and thus entered the Olympic team of other countries in the surrounding and the world. Only in London in in 2012 there were 6 athletes representing BiH, while 26 athletes born in BiH belonged to other country’s teams.

Our shooter, Nedžad Fazlija missed the medal by one round in Sydney where he positioned himself at a sixth place, which makes him our best Olympic athlete so far. He is followed by Mirjana Horvat who won the eight place in Barcelona, judoka Amel Mekić winning the ninth place in Beijing, and a runner Amel Tuka winning the twelfth place in Rio.  

Since Lillehammer in 1994, Bosnia and Herzegovina has regularly participated Winter Olympic Games as well. In six Winter Olympic Games there were 39 participants. Some new faces emerged on the ski tracks which in the seventies were dominated by the first Yugoslav participant at the Winter Olympic Games from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ajdin Pašović. Enis Bećirbegović and Igor Laikert are his true descendants. Winning the 21st place in downhill skiing at Games in Nagano in 1998, Bećirbegović still holds the best result.

Shooter Nedžad Fazlija participated the Olympic Games five times and holds a record for a greatest number of participations at the Olympic Games among BiH Olympic athletes. Athletes who have participated three Olympic Games were Amel Mekić, judo, Lucija Kimani, athletics, Janko Gojković, swimming, Mladen Plakalović, Tanja Krišika and Enis Bećirbegović, skiing, who likewise holds a participation as a part of Yugoslav team in 1992. It is interesting to note that Dragan Mustapić, athletics, has participated in Games four times (once for BiH and three times for Croatia), and that also three bobsled athletes also have a combined participation for two countries (Yugoslavia and BiH): Zdravko Stojnić, brothers Ognjen and Zoran Sokolović, as well as a skier Arijana Boras, who represented the Yugoslavia team in 1992, and then after that participated at the Games for BiH.

Beside the Olympic Games, and in line with the four year cycle, our athletes compete at the European Games, Youth Olympic Games, European Youth Olympic Festivals, Mediterranean Games and Mediterranean Beach Games.  

From 1992 until this day, Olympic Committee has participated 54 competitions with over then 1.000 of its best athletes in individual and team sports. Athletes were supported by several hundreds of coaches, so we can say that there were over 1200 members who represented BiH Olympism during the span of 28 years throughout the world and in various competitions under the patronage of International Olympic Committee, European Olympic Committees and ICMG. They have won 41 medals: five gold, 12 silver and 24 bronze medals. Medals were won at the Youth Olympic Games YOG (3), European Games (1), European Youth Olympic Festival (6), and Mediterranean Games (31). The first one to have won the bronze medal, for Bosnia and Herzegovina was Eldin Pekmez, karate, during the Mediterranean Games on Montpellier in 1993, and the first gold medal was won during the same competition by Alemdin Fetahović, boxing and basketball players led by a legendary Razija Mujanović.

So far the most successful athletes were judo athletes with 12 medals. They are followed by athletes in athletics and karate with nine medals. The most successful athlete, if we are to look at the number of won medals in the aforementioned competitions, is the European runner-up in shot put (2008) Hamza Alić with four medals at the Mediterranean Games (gold, silver and two bronze). He is followed by Larisa Cerić and Amel Mekić having won each three medals.  

In the last twenty years some of the most renowned athletes of the world now also include the names of some of our best athletes – Amel Tuka, athletics, (bronze medal at 800m at the World Championship in Beijing in 2015 and a silver medal at the World Championship in Doha in 2019) and Larisa Cerić, judo, having won gold at the World Junior Championship in 2009, and silver and bronze at the World Championship in 2017 and 2018, carrying the title of three years runner-up in European Championship in 2014, 2018 and 2019, one bronze medal in 2017, a runner up at the European Games in 2019 - silver medal, and bronze medal at Mediterranean games in 20019 and 2013, and many other trophies at international tournaments, cups and other competitions.

Having mentioned distinguished Olympic athletes, Damir Džumhur has as well achieved some great results (champion at European U-18 competition, bronze medal at Summer Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, and 23rd at ITF ranking in 2018), Mesud Pezer, athletics (21,48 shot put in 2019).), and Kemal Mešić in the same discipline with a personal record of  20,83.

These are the names of which BiH is rightfully proud of, because they serve as idols for younger generations. Historical documents confirm that the roots of Olympism in these areas go far into the past.

In accordance with the confirmed data, the first Olympic athlete in Bosnia was an Australian member of the wrestling team Hajnrih Raus, who participated the Games in Stockholm, in 1912. The first one who has won the Olympic medal was Alois Podhajski from Mostar, who won bronze medal for Austria at the Games in Berlin in 1936 in equestrian sport. Between the two World War the competitions of Aleksandar Spahić from Čapljina and Aleksa Kovačević from Nevesinje were significant as well.

Since the Yugoslav Olympic Committee was established in 1919 and all the way to Yugoslavia’s disintegration in early nineties, a great number of athletes, coaches and officials from Bosnia and Herzegovina have given their valuable contribution to Olympism at national and international level. Almost every Yugoslav team medal radiates the greatness of our elite athletes, and 156 of them between 1924 and 1992 have marched towards the top of Olympus at Summer and Winter Olympic Games directly from BH clubs or from some other places of birth in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 55 of them have won 24 Olympic medals and have earned their rightful place at the “Wall of Fame”. With great pride we name each of our stars from the Basketball Hall  of Fame - Mirza Delibašić and Razija Mujanović, our golden handball athletes Abas Arslanagić, Nebojša Popović, Milorad Karalić, Đorđe Lavrnić, Dobrivoje Selec, Zdravko Rađenović and Zlatan Arnautovića, female handball athletes Jasna Merdan, Olympic boxing champion Anton Josipović, our amazing football players Miroslav Brozović, Muhamed Mujić, Ibro Biogradlić, Tomislav Knez, Mirsad Fazlagić, Ivica Osim, Svetozar Vujović, Mehmed Baždarević, Bora Primorac, Mirsad Baljić, Davor Jozić, hanball players Adnan Dizdar and Jasmin Mrkonja, boxers Marijan Beneš, volleyball players Boro Jović and Radovan Malević, basketball players Ratko Radovanović, Žarko Varajić, Sabit Hadžić, Emir Mutapčić, basketball players Vera Đurašković, Slađana Golić, Mare Lakić, Vesna Bajkuše, Mersada Bećirspahić, athletes Dake Radošević, shooters Zdravko Milutinović, Srećko Pejović and Miroslav Šipek, gymnasts Nenad Vidović and Ivana Hmjelovjec, and many other great athletes coming from BH clubs, who have until 1992 in Barcelona spread the glory of sport of the former common state. 

Great number of athletes who did not have the opportunity to participate the Olympic Games have as well given a great contribution to the affirmation of BH sport. Those were “the football player of the century” Safet Sučić, a famous “Mostar BMV” Dušan Bajević, Enver Marić and Franjo Vladić, Vahid Halilhodžić, legendary Josip Katalinski,  a record holder in the number of national team participations Faruk Hadžibegić, gymnasts Božidar Rafajlović and Miroslav Kezunović, handball player Memnun Idžaković, great volleyball player Laslo Lukač, basketball player Samir Avdić and many other star athletes.

With reason we remember the names of our champions, but as well high class team selectors who have built a common Olympic house with their enthusiasm. There must be hundreds of them who have contributed from various federations and boards to the establishment of sport organisations, buildings and organisation of sport events.

Without any doubt, Fourteen Winter Olympic Games 1984 in Sarajevo were the strongest voice attesting to the abilities of Bosnian and Herzegovinian spirit, which left an everlasting impression on the whole world. It has been recorded that these were unique “Olympic Games with a spirit”!

The idea of organising the Games came as a result of a ten year longing and studies of skiing enthusiasts, who have somewhat secretly and dreamingly plotted the idea of how to achieve this. For the first time on the 14th October in 1977 it has been published that Sarajevo will be one of the candidates for the organisation of Winter Olympic Games in 1984, and on the 30th December in 1977, the official candidature has arrived in the premises of the IOC. The other cities competing for the organisation at the IOC session in Athens on the 18th May 1987 were Swedish city Göteborg and Japanese city Sapporo. In the first round Sapporo got 33 votes, Sarajevo 31, and Göteborg 10 votes. However in the second round competing with Sapporo, Sarajevo won by 39:36 and got to organise the Games.

From that moment, the mobilisation of all available personnel started, because WOG were presented as an opportunity to develop a city and the wider region. Organising committee was run by the President Branko Mikulić and General secretary Ahmed Karabegović, while the Executive committee was run by Anto Sučić. The rich sport, societal-political and economic knowledge and experience in implementing this historic project was provided by all in BiH and Yugoslavia. Among them were Dragutin Kosovac, Dane Maljković, Uglješa Uzelac, Ljubiša Zečević, Emerik Blum, Artur Takač, Đorđe Peklić, and many others.

It was not easy to fight the disbelief of certain national and foreign sport circles and at the same time to construct everything that was necessary for holding the Games. However, the astonishing enthusiasms of all those involved has surpassed all the obstacles. With 1.200.000 donors, great number of sponsors, youth work brigades, and dozens of thousands of amateurs involved in the preparations for the Olympic Games, Sarajevo successfully ended the “battle of construction”. “Skenderija” was reconstructed and enlarged, Stadium “Koševo” was reconstructed, “Zetra” Hall was built, along with bob and skiing tracks in Trebević, ski jumps in Igman, nordic and biathlon tracks, skiing tracks in Bjelašnica and Jahorina, Olympic village in Mojmilo and media centre in Dobrina with over 3.850 new apartments, a gas pipe was as well constructed along with national television centre, post office, national theatre, train station, new airport building and runway…the whole of Sarajevo was being constructed!

The Games have been officially opened on 8th February 1984 at Stadium Koševo, and the competitions were held from 7th till 19th February. There were 1.272 athletes from 49 countries competing in 39 disciplines. They were followed by 7.825 accredited press and 640.000 spectators. At the end, a financial balance indicated 12 million dollars of surplus, and the President of IOC Juan Antonio Samaranch declared that WOG in Sarajevo were the best organised Games ever.

The building of the Museum, beautiful “Villa Mandić” was destroyed by shelling on 27th April 1992. It was a difficult and dark day when the Olympic enthusiasts risked their own lives to save its treasure. Twelve years later on 8th February 2001, the saved museum items were displayed in a newly built Olympic Museum at the premises of the Olympic Committee in reconstructed Zetra Hall, which was officially opened by IOC President Jacques Rogge.

This impressive act did not end the long dream to once again return the Olympic Museum to its rightful home. Therefore, the Olympic Committee worked diligently on making preparations to reconstruct the destroyed building of the Museum. But, it took a lot of time and money to start the implementation of such a demanding project, since it was of a cultural importance to the entire nation. These plans and similar projects was difficult to implement, since OC BiH from the day of its establishment was unfairly treated as “not having access to government funds”

Successfully completing all the preparatory phases in collaboration with International Olympic Committee, on a thirtieth anniversary of WOG at the end of January 2014, Olympic Committee of BiH announced the start of an intensive campaign to set up all preconditions for reconstructing the building of the Olympic Museum. Several years of extensive work have passed, and the result was satisfactory. A very complex operation, financed from more sources (Olympic Solidarity of IOC, City of Sarajevo, Council of Ministers of BiH, Sarajevo Canton and UNESCO) was taking place, and finally in the fall of 2020, the Museum was completed. It now shines as a symbol of WOG 84 and a beaker of Olympism in BiH.  

On this project like every other, from its beginning to its realisation, Members of OC BiH Presidency persisted and worked diligently, and those were Mr Siniša Kisić, prof dr Izet Rađo and Mr Marijan Kvesić, along with dr sci Said Fazlagić, secretary general and with the support from the Mayor of Sarajevo Abdulah Skaka, Mayor of East Sarajevo Mr Nenad Vuković, and a directors of EYOF firm Samir Avdić and Senahid Godinjak

The event which was held under the slogan “We create together“ magnificently presented to all that when you create together the ambient of mutual trust and respect and when two cities unite together with the region and the whole of Europe under the common vision, every dream can become reality. Bosnia and Herzegovina has once again raised to the heights of Olympism inspiring hope that using its own resources one day it can again become a host of the greatest Olympic event.

Through EYOF, the reconstruction of the Museum and a constant support to the athletes and sport federationa, with a number of well-planned and implemented project, Olympic Committee of BiH has evolved into a credible international organisation appreciated in the IOC and EOC circles.

Surpassing all the difficulties and the turbulent times within which it was established, with the hard work of its management and members of the Executive Committee, General assembly, independent bodies, commissions and administrative services, it has become the creator of the sport development in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that role has been responsibly upheld for over four decades, following the principles of Olympic Charter and Olympism.

From 1992 until this day, honourable roles of President of the Olympic Committee were upheld by Stjepan Kljuić, Bogić Bogićević, Ahmed Karabegović, Ljiljanko Naletilić, Zdravko Rađenović, prof dr Milanko Mučibabić, prof dr Nađa Avdibašić-Vukadinović, Siniša Kisić, Marijan Kvesić and prof. dr Izet Rađo, while the roles of a secretary general were upheld by Izudin Filipović, Sejdalija Mustafić and dr Said Fazlagić.

Today, by preserving the Olympic legacy and instilling new values, new horizons are being set. With knowledge, expertise and zest, the foundations of future of sport are being built and affirmed.  

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