Istocno Sarajevo closes European Youth Olympic Winter Festival

The medals were distributed and the Flame of Peace was quenched on Friday as the European Youth Winter Olympic Festival (EYOF) 2019 came to an end in Istocno Sarajevo (Eastern Sarajevo) on Friday.

The Festival represents the biggest sports event that took place in the country since the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

But apart from that, EYOF 2019 is hailed as a refreshing event in the country which has been crippled by ethnic tensions throughout the past year, due to a turbulent election campaign.

Specifically, the Festival is the product of cooperation between two parts of a city that was divided by the brutal 1992-1995 war.

While the opening ceremony of EYOF took place in Sarajevo, which belongs to the Bosniak-Croat majority Federation (FBiH) semi-autonomous entity, the closing ceremony took place in Istocno Sarajevo (Eastern Sarajevo), which belongs to the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity.

Politicians in the two regions have throughout the years been at odds with each other over the most basic issues, such as whether the country should exist at all.

Yet, the mayors, Sarajevo’s Abdulah Skaka and Istocno Sarajevo’s Nenad Vukovic, managed to set aside their differences and organise an event that reminds of what it used to be like in the capital before the bloodshed.

“We have passed an important exam,” Vukovic said at the closing ceremony.

“I consider EYOF a success of many of you gathered here. The Flame of Peace which we recently brought from Rome was necessary and crucial for us, and I hope that we will honour the Olympic values forever,” he said.

“Although today we are closing EYOF, we have proven that we are prepared to open a new door to our joint, more beautiful future. We have gathered here around a project which has connected us with the correct values,” said mayor Skaka.

“We have all won, the sport has won, youth has won, the future has won. May the Flame of Peace burn eternally and may the only eternal battle be the one on the sports ground,” he added.

The Chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, also gave a speech.

“It was due time for us to send out this kind of an image of this region. One that is completely different than those that have been sending out for years,” Dodik said.

The EYOF flag was handed to Finland, which will host the next Festival in Lahti.