SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean relived the magic of their iconic Bolero performance on Thursday at the venue where they won Olympic gold in Sarajevo 30 years ago, a high point for the city before it was torn apart by war.
Britain’s most celebrated winter Olympians recreated their routine in a packed Zetra hall, which was razed in the bombardment of the city, to standing ovations from an exalted audience which applauded them throughout the performance.
“It was memorable, the two days merging a little bit like that,” said Dean referring to the parallels between their latest performance and the one that brought them the Olympic title.
“When we originally did Bolero, it was a tragic love story but tonight it was a celebration, a happy event.”
Their dance to Ravel’s Bolero drew an unprecedented perfect row of 6.0 scores in 1984. On Thursday, it made some in the audience cry, bringing back memories of the Olympics as a moment of high hope before war tore apart federal Yugoslavia in the 1990s, killing 100,000 people in Bosnia.
“This reminded me of the best days of my youth, it made us all go back to those idyllic times,” said Goran Hasanefendic, whose daughter took part in the show.
The British pair’s outfits of lighter and darker shades of purple were a reminder of the colors they originally wore.
Thursday’s spectacular, during which British and Bosnian junior skaters performed, was organized with the Sarajevo authorities to help build a new ice rink in the city to replace those destroyed by bombs during a 43-month siege between 1992 and 1995 in which more than 10,000 people died.
“It was exhilarating, we are very happy that we were able to do it. We loved the response of the audience and they all looked so happy when we were waving at the end,” Torvill told Reuters after the show.
Most of the Olympic venues have been reduced to rubble either by conflict or neglect over the past 30 years. The Zetra hall was rebuilt in 1999, but Sarajevo remains without a year-round ice rink.
“We hope because of the show this evening we will get people involved in the skating and also get funding for a new ice rink for the children,” added Torvill.
The visit is part of a number of events to mark three decades since the Sarajevo Winter Olympics.
The skaters’ return finds Sarajevo in fresh upheaval, with protesters taking to the streets daily to vent their anger at the unemployment, corruption and political paralysis that has blighted Bosnia’s recovery from the war.
“Thirty years ago, after we won the Olympic gold medal, we never imagined what would happen to us, you don’t realize a certain day in your life can impact the rest of your life, and that day changed our lives for ever,” Dean said.
Choking back tears, he spoke of meeting again the woman who as a six-year-old girl collected the flowers on the rink and gave them to the two Britons after their 1984 performance.
“It was very emotional when we saw her. It was about the time and it was about what her life has been in Sarajevo, what she’s gone through and the past 30 years as well came together just about in one emotional moment,” Dean told Reuters.
The flower girl, Elma Krasny, brought her three-year-old daughter to watch the show and give flowers to the couple.
“I had the privilege to give them flowers and I am glad that my daughter can do it again,” she told Reuters.
“Thirty years ago when they were here they left us breathless and we all looked at them in such amazement when they were dancing,” said Krasny, a skater herself.
“We just fell in love with them and I think it’s beautiful that they came back and that we can see them dancing again. They are my childhood heroes and... they are still my heroes.”
Torvill and Dean said they hoped to come back again.
“Thirty years on, we are still here and we are still doing Bolero. It’s been an amazing ride,” said Dean.
Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris