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Dossier Rijeka
Sports in Rijeka

Sports in Rijeka

Twenty names are on a sign located at Trg riječkih olimpijaca (Square of Rijeka's Olympians). Every name presents a wonderful story of Rijeka's sporting history, i.e. the Olympic and Paralympic medals that have found their home in Rijeka. The largest number of medals was won in water sports. In 1900 in Paris, water polo was listed as an Olympic sport, as the second team sport at the Olympic Games, right after football. The majority of medals were won in water polo, which is the number one sport in Rijeka, since 10 of its citizens have won a medal in that sport. All of them started their Olympic careers at Primorje Water Polo Club, which was founded in 1908 and has received many trophies over the years. Several years ago, the club was given one of the most beautiful pool complexes in the world, which is used by Rijeka's swimmers, synchronised swimmers, and divers. Swimming Pools Kantrida have been awarded with numerous global awards for design. The testament of its functionality is the fact that every year numerous world representations choose this location for their preparations in all water sports.

"I have seen many pools, but this one is the most beautiful. Its location is special, right next to the sea" - Oussama Mellouli, swimmer, gold medal/marathon 10 km, bronze medal/1500 m London Olympics in 2012

''I like being in Rijeka, everything is wonderful and the pools are amazing''
- Lotte Friis, swimmer, two-time world champion in 2009 and 2011, bronze medal – 2008 Peking Olympics

The football heart of the city is located in the vicinity of the pools. The Stadium Kantrida is located in a narrow area between cliffs and the sea. According to CNN, it's one of the 10 most unusual stadiums in the world, and it has recently celebrated its 100th birthday. It is used by Rijeka football club, which regularly participates in the UEFA Europa League. Rijeka is the place where the first football match was played in Croatia, in 1873. It is interesting to hear that in 1905, then 23-year-old Fiorello La Guardia played for Rijeka football clubs, while serving as the American Consul. Among other things, he later became the mayor of New York for three terms, and New York airport was named after him. However, La Guardia is just one of the numerous famous people who can be related to football in Rijeka. The modern club Rijeka played in the Italian Serie A, but it was called Fiumana then. Many global football stars played at Stadium Kantrida, some of them thanks to one of the oldest junior football tournaments – Kvarnerska rivijera, which was first organised in 1953.

The best view of Rijeka’s sports facilities is from the sea, which is closely related to the sports in the city. The view from the land towards the sea is particularly impressive mid-June when Fiumanka is held. This sailing regatta turns the Kvarner Gulf into a race field thanks to hundreds of sail boats which participate in this demanding fight against wind and time. Participants are regatta cruisers, but also small amateur crews and sail boats. Willingness and a sail are all you need to have a great time.

Sailors often meet rowers at sea, since rowing regattas are frequently held on a wide area in front of the city. This can be attributed to the Rowing Club Jadran, which was founded in 1922. However, in winter months, sailors and rowers share Riva with athletes who usually spend their time only at high altitudes - snowboarders. Once a year, during the competition season, the world's best snowboarders come to Rijeka. Carnival Snowboard Session is one of very few snowboard competitions in the world held at a coastal city where you can see boats and seagulls. For the purposes of the competition, the snow is brought from Platak, which is a ski resort 20 minutes away. This is the reason why Rijeka has a nearly equal number of athletes at both winter and summer Olympics.

Homo si teć is the largest sports event in Rijeka. The street race turns the city centre into a sports arena. The slowest street in Rijeka - Korzo becomes very fast for a day. Homo si teć race is less than 3 kilometres long. Your time does not matter. What matters is to participate and become a part of the river of runners or walkers, depending on their fitness. Metres and seconds are more important for the half-marathon, which is the peak of Homo si teć, attended by numerous great African long-distance runners. We do not think that many of them have heard about the most popular sport in Rjeka - bocce.

Old records indicate that even 2500 years BC bocce was one of the main entertainment games in Egypt. Just like many other sports, bocce came from the sea. While a steamer brought football, bocce arrived long before the invention of machines. Maybe parts of the city or villages around Rijeka do not have a shopping mall, but they sure have a bocce court. The bocce court is where all generations meet and bocce balls are thrown to reach the jack. The city and its surrounding area have 90 registered clubs with 1500 players. However, the number of non-registered bocce players is significantly greater. In Rijeka, bocce is a lifestyle.

The good news is that the sign from the beginning of this story is made of stainless steel and it still has plenty of room. The Square dedicated to Rijeka Olympians, where the Sports Centre Zamet is located, is also large enough to hold some new signs. Both present and future names are only a small part of rich sporting history of the city, where medals were not only brought, but were also awarded thanks to organising major European and world championships in various sports.

Igor Rivetti