The Olympic spirit can reach some surprising places and people. It has touched a group of under-privileged children from the former Yugoslavia. The children were treated to a special day of watching the games and meeting a past Olympic great.
After traveling for two days by bus, a group of 45 children, including 15 Bosnian orphans, arrived in Sistriere, Italy to watch the Olympic Giant Slalom Ski competition. This trip was the idea of Jure Franko who won the silver medal in this event in the 1984 Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo, which was then part of Yugoslavia.
"I came up with the idea when Slovenians asked me to be the first one to receive the Olympic torch, when it crossed from Italy to Slovenia,” he said. “I felt that Olympic spirit should be broadened, so I came up with the idea to take children from Sarajevo, Bosnia, Gorizia, Italy and Nova Gorica, Slovenia, to Turin to watch men's giant slalom, which was my discipline 22 years ago."
Trip leader Sandra Kasalo-Fazlic says it has been a hectic but worthwhile adventure.
"Children from Sarajevo met with children from Italy and Slovenia and traveled together to Turin. There they watched the giant slalom race, that is a discipline in which Jure Franko won silver at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo in 1984. It was just amazing,” she told us. “Then, they met Alberto Tomba at the Italian House, talked with him and got his autographs. Now, they are returning to Sarajevo."
And while some of the children seem exhausted, most are thrilled with the experience.
"My name is Neira Halilovic, I am 10-years-old and in the fourth grade,” one non-shy girl said. “I am very glad to have had a chance to come to Turin and see our and other skiers. When I grow up, I will be better then Anja Paerson and Janica Kostelic.
A boy said, "I am having good time here and would like to come back. I come from Tuzla and currently I live in an orphanage in Sarajevo, and I will live there until high school. Jure Franko invited me to go to Turin."
But it is only a brief visit. After traveling for two days to get to the Olympics, then spending one day watching the action, they immediately file back on the bus and head for home again.