30 Years Since Zagreb Summer Universiade

Total Croatia News

Thirty years ago Zagreb hosted the biggest sporting event ever held in Croatia

The 1987 Summer Universiade took place in Zagreb, Croatia (SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia at the time). There were more than 6,000 participants from 122 countries around the world and it was an event which played a crucial part in transforming Zagreb’s appearance and making it what it is today.

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The city was completely revitalised during an extensive renovation period which lasted from May 1984 until July 1987. Ban Jelačić Square (Republic Square at the time) was repaved and made part of the downtown pedestrian zone. A part of the Medveščak stream was uncovered by workers and it was used to form the Manduševac fountain, both of which were covered a hundred years before that.

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Many sports halls and academic facilities were also built for the occasion – Dražen Petrović Basketball Hall, ŠRC Mladost, Stjepan Radić and Cvjetno naselje student residential halls, pools at Šalata, and Jarun, to name a few.

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The slogan, “World of the young for a World of Peace!” matched the event’s mascot, a lovable squirrel called Zagi, designed by Nedjeljko Dragić.


Zagi’s description matches its friendly personality:
“The mascot of the 1987 Summer Universiade is a squirrel, a resident of Zagreb’s parks, amiable and always in a good mood. Its nonchalance and gaiety are but a cover for diligence… Always on the move and reaching for the seemingly impossible, the squirrel embodies the dynamism of athletic endeavour. Its origin is shown by the little black hat, characteristic of the folk costumes in the region of Zagreb.” (www.fisu.net/)

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The Universiade was officially opened by Lazar Mojsov, president of the SFR Yugoslavia, and the torch lighter was the popular Croatian NBA basketball player, Dražen Petrović.

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There were 12 categories and the main event took place at Maksimir Stadium, July 8 – 19, 1987.

Some scholars have called the event the second Croatian National Revival due to the infrastructural and economic renaissance that Zagreb went through at the time.
“Despite the fact that it occurred at a time of economic and political crisis in the former Yugoslavia, Zagreb experienced a renewal of urban infrastructure. With wide media coverage and a rich cultural programme, Universiade offered an excellent opportunity to promote not only Zagreb and Croatia but also Yugoslavia. Primarily as a cultural event, Universiade ’87 is considered the largest sporting event ever held in Croatia.”
(Jasenko Zekić)

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The character of Zagi was everywhere as many Zagreb-based companies were sponsors of the games.

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Read more in the Olympic Review here, visit Univerzijada ’87 Facebook page for more great photos, and stop by K&K Milčec (Jurišićeva 5) today, where Ivan Brčić will host an exhibition of souvenirs, postcards and photos from the Universiade, an enormous event in Zagreb’s history that everyone looks back to with nostalgia.

Photos: Zagreb – kakav je bio nekadaUniverzijada ’87.



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