The largest sports event ever held in Croatia, the 1987 Zagreb Summer Universiade transcended sports and grew into a social phenomenon which permanently altered the city of Zagreb. Even today, many participants, volunteers and visitors gladly remember the event and the legendary mascot, the squirrel Zagi, is recognized by younger generations even thirty five years later. Zagi started as the symbol of the 1987 Universiade and has since become a symbol of a new city of Zagreb.
This academic sports competition took place in the summer, between July 8th and 19th 1987 in Zagreb and in partner cities: Bjelovar, Čakovec, Jasterabsko, Karlovac, Kumrovec, Petrinja, Sisak, Varaždin and Sveti Ivan Zelina. It was the fourteenth summer Universiade, counting nearly 6 500 student athletes from 122 countries competing in 12 sports inspired by the Olympic Games. Sports events took place in 26 venues in Zagreb and 14 venues in partner cities. The majority of these venues were either brand new or had undergone comprehensive reconstruction in the lead-up to the Universiade, with the most significant venues being Jarun lake, the Cibona complex, Mladost on the Sava river, the Šalata complex and the Dom Sportova.
In addition to sports infrastructure, the city itself witnessed a comprehensive reconstruction. The student accommodations at Cvjetno naselje and Stjepan Radić received a new appearance, the Mimara Museum opened its doors and the city’s tram lines extended across the Sava river for the first time. The city received a new main Bus Station, the city’s main railway station was rebuilt alongside Zagreb’s main square, known at the time as Republic Square, while over 200 building facades received a new coat of paint quite literally bringing Zagreb out of an era of grey smog into a more colourful future. More than anything, however, Zagreb was possessed by a cosmopolitan spirit as it played host to visitors from across the planet, with the city streets echoing with the song “Zagi, Zagi, Zagi for Zagreb and the world” to the beats and voices of the Zagrebački mališani musical ensemble. The ceremonial opening ceremony at Maksimir Stadium, attended by 50 000 visitors, saw a lighting of the torch by the already-famous basketball player Dražen Petrović.
The mascot Zagi, the visual identity of the 1987 Universiade, was conceived by the animator Nedjeljko Dragić (Paklenica near Novska, 1936), one of the most significant representatives of the Zagreb school of animated film. The logo of the 1987 Universiade caused a great deal of dissent, as it was initially conceived in the form of the locally politically fraught letter U. Ultimately, the accepted logo was the one proposed by Zagreb’s designer Dušan Bekar (Zagreb, 1931 – 2019) – a stylized man with hands held high in the form of the letter Y, the first letter of Yugoslavia.
This exhibition is intended to showcase part of the Croatian Sports Museum’s collection related to the Universiade in Zagreb that was acquired during the Museum’s existence.
The exhibition is intended to be part of the University of Zagreb’s Convention which is to be held between November 10th and 12th 2022.