London is on track to present a world-class Olympics, according to Serbia’s Olympic sports chief who toured the purpose-built venues and village at the new Olympic Park, last week. Venues, transport and infrastructure are working well, said Professor Branislav Jevtić, Chef de Mission of the Serbian Olympic Committee, who met with W!LD RooSTeRduring his visit to London.
Prof Jevtić joined the Serbian squad at the International Basketball Invitational, as part of the London Prepares test series. Serbia triumphed over Great Britain, Croatia and China, but lost to Australia and France in the inaugural event at the Olympic Basketball Arena.
As an example of London’s preparedness for the Olympics, last week’s international basketball test event was a triumph, said Prof Jevtić.
Serbia will be celebrating its London 2012 Olympic centenary with the launch of a charming new team mascot. Award-winning Belgrade designer Ivan Aran secured the honour of creating the Serbian team’s national mascot in a public competition run by the Serbian Olympic Committee.
His winning design was Srećko (Lucky), a cute brown and white baby bird that will be seen in various sporting get-ups, including a waterpolo hat, judo robes and as a slightly punch-drunk boxer. The inspiration for this mascot was the griffon vulture, a protected species that is found mostly in Southern Serbia. It is not quite the more familiar Serbian eagle – but close enough.
Prior to my first visit to the Balkans, I was warned that I might find it difficult to spend any length of time there. Thankfully, I ignored their words – as I have a habit of doing – and jumped on a plane. That was five years ago and I have returned nearly twenty times.
Their words of caution were not related to the usual issues. They were because I do not eat meat. They believed that the Serbs’ meat-rich fare would leave me on a diet of cucumber and tomato (which wouldn’t be so bad, as Serbia has some of the best produce I have ever tasted).
Learning a new language gets more difficult as the years go by. I am living proof of that belief. It is widely accepted that the mind is more attuned to study during youth and, dare I confess, I hung up my school bag a few years back.
Do not get me wrong, I am far from being in my dotage, but I can testify that it is harder now than in my teens to learn lists of vocabulary or pick up the idiosyncrasies of grammar. To illustrate this, let me outline my well-intentioned attempts to learn Serbian, with its grammatical minefield. It is not a pretty story and, as yet, it does not have a particularly happy ending. But I am working on that.