Finally, I am back in Belgrade. It has not been three months since my last visit but it is great to be back for two weeks of meetings, media, visits to a film set and, of course, to catch up with friends. This weekend’s BlogOpen conference in Novi Sad should allow me to meet up with the creators of the blogs I follow regularly and to share some thoughts and experiences.
My visit started as I mean it to go on – if I can keep up with the pace, that is. Within hours of arriving, my friend Ivan Agbaba was whisking me around Belgrade bars, before we headed out of town to Pink International’s film studios for a massive party with the musically diverse combination of Željko Joksimović and DJ Bob Sinclar performing. Outside of the region, Željko is best known for presenting Eurovision, although here he is obviously well established as a singer and all-round celebrity.
Football pundits have been quick to sound the death knell over Serbian football since the country’s two top teams crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in less than spectacular fashion. It did not help when Serbia’s national coach made some bizarre comments about his favoured results in the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers. The comments of Vladimir Petrović appear to aim below target for the national team and deserve questioning, even given the injury-struck squad.
But, while the disappointment for Partizan and Red Star Belgrade fans is palpable, the significance should not be overplayed. Rather than bad-mouthing individuals or clubs, now is the time to address the cause of this glitch and put in place the necessary elements to prevent it recurring. Serbian football must prove that there is life in the old dog yet.
Serbia’s Olympic Sports Director has hit out at a system that allows athletes to lose sight of their priorities and for Serbia to under-perform in competition. “We spoil our athletes because we build some kind of mystery around them, about their behaviour and their needs,’ Serbia’s Olympic sports chief Branislav Jevtić told W!LD RooSTeR during a visit to London.
“Companies invest in them and the athletes are spoiled in some way. They become celebrities, they stop their training and development and, as a result, we have less qualified athletes than we expected. When a lot of our athletes play abroad, no one thinks about their health, their anti-doping or operations. They play only for money. They have a fascination for money and they are spoiled. That is a big problem for us and I don’t know how to solve it.”
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.