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.
The Box is the tragicomic urban tale of three young men chasing their dreams while trapped under the yoke of UN sanctions in early nineties Belgrade. With the onset of isolation, the film shows Belgrade in a moment of transition between everyday normality and the abnormal conditions about to be imposed on it.
It is 1992 and governments are recalling their embassies in the face of the coming storm, leaving the packing to our three protagonists, who work for a removals business that specialises in moving diplomats. This should be good for them as they box the lives of the diplomatic corps, but they live in a country that is being cut off.
Rather than be crushed by this, these young men carry on their own lives until they are moved to find new outlets for their dreams, showing comical resourcefulness to break out of their isolation.
An online search for Novak Djokovic spews out a seemingly endless stream of stories on how he has positively changed the image of Serbia and then, like Caesar to Rome, he brought thousands to the streets of Belgrade to celebrate his victorious homecoming.
Of course, it is true that many of these reports are riddled with hyperbole and over-the-top praise for the sportsman’s triumph. There have even been demands for the sanctification of the young tennis star.
While it is easy to pour scorn on the inflated enthusiasm of a number of these celebratory stories, there is legitimacy in their core message. What we all witnessed was a natural outpouring of national pride in the incredible success of a countryman.
The country had come to a virtual standstill as even the most fair-weather sports fan sat on the edge of their seat in front of TVs in homes, bars and cafes to watch the Serb’s first Wimbledon Final against the defending champion Rafeal Nadal.