I Was in the 1984 Winter Olympics: My Father’s Rare, Once in a Lifetime Experience

I Was in the 1984 Winter Olympics: My Father’s Rare, Once in a Lifetime Experience

At the 1980 Winter Olympic Closing Ceremony, the International Olympic Committee declared that the 1984 Winter Olympics will be held in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, then Yugoslavia.  It was an announcement that shocked many.

Haris Kisija was in his ninth grade math class when he first heard the news.

“I had this surge of pride when I heard my math teacher’s words,” Kisija said.

The last time Bosnia and Herzegovina received worldwide headlines was as the country that began World War I.

Schools across the country then known as Yugoslavia, which now includes six countries, were enrolled in competitions where schools would go face-to-face to see who would take part in the Winter Olympics’ ceremonies. It was a highly selective process.

Kisija’s high school was among the few that succeeded and passed the elimination process.

Training started immediately.

Within a week, many schools from across Yugoslavia were summoned to the capital city, Sarajevo, for Olympic Ceremony training camps.

“I remember the training camps very well, yes. We were called to come four months prior to the opening ceremony. We would practice once every day, seven days a week. The last two of those four months, the practice hours were doubled,” Kisija said.

Wake-up time was 5:30 AM with breakfast served at 6:00 AM. Then it was group stretching and a morning run. The rest of the day was used for ceremonial choreography. Any misbehaving or injuries would result in being cut from the ceremonies.

Ultimately, Kisija noted, he ended up being placed by the man who lit the 15th Winter Olympic torch during Sarajevo’s Opening Ceremony.

Kisija said it was an opportunity many can’t relate to. Although his country has survived numerous imperial rulings, ethnic cleansing, and many other horrific moments, he is glad that not only his country, but the world, could put aside its differences for a moment to enjoy the beauty of Bosnia.