Belgrade’s Postcard To The World

 

Published in CorD Magazine

Serbian capital – Belgrade – is bestowed with a privilege of playing a host to the 25th Summer Universiade, the biggest global sports event in 2009, from 1st to 12th July.  
This will be the best opportunity to show to the world that our capital city can be a great host, which was validated in past when Belgrade organized the European Basketball Championship and European Volleyball Championship (2005), as well as the European Water Polo Championship (2006). The University Village will house about 9,500 athletes from 138 countries, and it is quite possible for these figures to go up by the opening ceremony in the Belgrade Arena. Student games are, therefore, a new chance for Belgrade to send the most beautiful postcard to the rest of the world, the one that will only bring good things to Serbia in the field of sports, tourism and politics.

General Manager of the Universiade, Zoran Jovanovi? is aware of this opportunity and ready for upcoming challenges.


Universiade is the largest collective sports event after the Olympic Games and its importance in promoting a host country is unquestionable. The organization of the Universiade is assigned in the same way as the Olympic Games and there are always a lot of strong competitors trying to win over the organization of the games. This speaks volumes about the prestige that being an organizer of student games brings, says Zoran Jovanovi? for CorD.

The capital of Serbia has an obligation to provide a pleasant stay for foreign tourists.  


Over 10,000 foreigners will come to Belgrade and they will be the best promoters of our country in the world. Impressions that they take away with them are more effective than any campaign. It is clear that this is an opportunity that should not be missed. We are preparing a memorable stay for our guests. For athletes, that will be accommodated in the University Village, we are going to organize special programmes, while a working group, set up solely for this occasion by the city authorities, will oversee a number of events to be held on the streets of Belgrade.  

The global  financial crisis has had an impact on the budget and the Universiade’s budget was reduced to about 50 million euros at the end of last year. Of course, we expect a good investment return.

 


Universiade, just like the Olympic Games, is not an event where the profit can be measured simply by looking at expenditure / revenue ratio. We are talking about investments, reconstruction and improving reputation here. For example, all the furniture, which is currently used in the University Village apartments, will be donated to student dorms immediately after the Universiade, and this will be probably the most extensive furnishing of the student accommodation ever. The tracks on the FC Red Star and Military Academy stadiums will be the best in the region. Most of the Belgrade hotels will be fully booked and this is a guaranteed income for the city economy.

Following budget cuts, reducing the number of sports at the Universiade was inevitable, so there will be 15 instead of  21 sports (handball, carate, archery, wrestling, rowing and canoe – cayak were excluded), while the number of athletes was reduced by 3,500. In the eve of the Universiade, some media were reporting that certain facilities were not going be ready in time due to lack of funds. This is the case with a sports hall in In?ija, which was supposed to be a volleyball venue. Also, there are certain problems with reconstructing a swimming pool in Obrenovac.

Competitions will be held in 41 sports facilities in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Vršac, Smederevo and In?ija. We always have backup facilities, so that the delay in building the hall in In?ija will not cause a problem. Volleyball competitions will be held in Lazarevac.

All facilities must meet the standards of FISU (the International University Sports Federation), and not a single facility can be approved without the FISU technical committee inspecting it first. Therefore, we should not fear that something will be below the standards required for an international sporting event.

The facility that is always subjected to scrutiny is certainly the FC Red Star’s stadium – Marakana - where the opening ceremony should take place and on which extensive construction works should be carried out. However, the plans have been altered due to budget cuts.


A new racing track is being built on the Marakana by Mondo Company, which is the global leader in production of sport grounds. Along with the Military Academy’s stadium, Belgrade is now going to have two best tracks in the region. These top notch tracks are certainly going to suit the athletes who are going to train and compete on them.  

There are conflicting opinions about the necessity of organizing the Universiade in such a specific time for the global and national economies. Many claim that important infrastructure will not stay behind the Universiade, primarily the one pertaining to sports facilities.

 


The financial crisis is global, as well as local. The initial plans had to be adjusted to the new situation, but it is not true that nothing of the infrastructure will remain. Sports halls have been built in several cities. They were built by the local self-governments, with the Universiade being the initiator. Belgrade and other host cities will be additionally spruced up, with many utility works carried out, the works that will not be considered the priority if it weren’t for the Universiade. There is a saying that goes „whatever may be, may be”, but I like to look at the facts and try to reach the maximum under given circumstances. I am sure that we are going to succeed in this, and our goal is to make this Universiade the best ever despite aggravating conditions – Zoran Jovanovi? adds.

Village to be completed before deadline, volunteers ready
 
The University Village has 14 residential buildings (1,858 apartments) and two commercial buildings, of the total surface of 260,000 square meters. These facilities were completely equipped in mid-May, three weeks before the deadline. This is the largest complex of this kind in Southeastern Europe. The Village houses the largest restaurant in the Balkans, which will serve about 45,000 meals a day of Serbian, vegetarian, Halal and Oriental cuisine during the Universiade. Although, 16,000 volunteers underwent the general training, at the beginning of June, their number was reduced to 10,000 young people, who will selflessly assist with the organization of this prestigious event.