The day is so dismal and wet that anybody out in it should be stopped and questioned. It's raining and snowing at the same time, and occasional bursts of wind sweep diagonally across the 70-meter ski jump. Because of the weather, from the side of the hill it's impossible to see the start of the jump, and after the jumpers do come into view they pass out of sight as abruptly as they appeared. Yet they're still coming down the run, their skis making a sizzling sound. They take off into the mist with that characteristic upward lunge, uncoiling with a thrust of their thighs. Then they vanish in the storm. It borders on the bizarre: swoosh, lunge, and they are gone.
They're landing somewhere not too far below, 275 feet or so, and one can hear the soft whomp of skis hitting the icy outrun. But no other sound marks the landings, mostly because there's no crowd around to do any cheering, and one suspects that packs of wolves may be dashing out of the pine forests on either side of the run to drag the jumpers away.
Other strange things are going on, adding to the sense of unreality. Shadowy figures ghost in and out of the mist in wraps of transparent plastic, cut from heavy-grade stuff of the kind used to cover construction equipment that must be left outdoors. It turns out that the source of this rain gear lies under the lip of the ski jump, a dark area almost like a cave, where a group of workers and ski-jumping officials have taken refuge. Anton Erman, chief of the distance judges, a round, bear of a man, craggy-faced, is turning out ponchos with his Swiss army knife. He has already outfitted all of his judges, who must stand exposed alongside the jump. "Some officials have big heads to match their egos," he says, "and so for them, I cut bigger holes." He grins at the wonderful lunacy of the scene.
There's a sudden, whispery shoom just overhead as another jumper goes off. The workers all turn and peer out as the jumper is enveloped by the mist, and then they shrug. The shrugs aren't unsympathetic, just the reaction of people who figure that jumpers are crazy anyway. A soaked cardboard box lies at their feet, piled high with sandwiches—ham and pungent white feta cheese between thick slices of bread. Now one of the workers gets out an unlabeled bottle of homemade slivovitz and pours three or four fingers into a plastic glass for a visitor. Drinks are poured all around and toasts are proposed, with the glasses held high in mittened hands: "≈Ωivili [ZHEE-vu-li]!" The slivovitz, high-octane plum brandy, sears all the way down, and soon the warmth spreads up over one's cheeks and forehead. Within minutes, blood starts surging back into fingers and toes. Each drinker knows he could breathe on the side of a house right now and cause the paint to peel.
But aside from the modest animal pleasure afforded by standing under a ski jump belting slivovitz, what's the point of this exercise? This peculiar jumping event is taking place on Friday, Feb. 11, near the end of a month of competition in and around Sarajevo, Yugoslavia as part of a preliminary test of the various venues that will be used in the 1984 Winter Olympics. Some of the competition has been good; much of it has been ineptly run. Almost everything has been staged in nasty weather and under difficult conditions. Very unusual weather, the Sarajevans said. Perhaps. But two weeks before the ski-jumping events, the first attempt at the men's downhill had to be postponed because the course lacked snow. Ten days after that, on still another mountainside, the women's giant slalom was completely blown away in a storm so fierce that the empty chairs on the ski lift were strung out horizontally from their support cable. And now, sure enough, at the 70-meter ski jump, word arrives that this event is to be postponed, too. That caps it.
The handling of this winter's pre-Olympics raises the serious question of whether Yugoslavia can actually succeed at the formidable task of staging the 1984 Winter Games. The Sarajevo Olympics will be a $135 million production, in a nation that is far from rich, that has $20 billion in foreign debt and is wracked by 30% inflation. But it is, of course, too late to turn back, organizational foul-ups and uncertain weather notwithstanding. A country's pride hangs in the balance, and if the Games aren't a success, some say, no amount of slivovitz will be enough to soften the sense of shame.
But this isn't a suspense story. The answer is: Yes, they'll do it. Sarajevo will pull off the 1984 Winter Olympics. However these won't be the Games we've come to know, with the icy professionalism of Innsbruck or Sapporo. Sarajevo will present the Olympics as Theater—a wide-ranging drama in which a few sporting scenes will be played. There will surely be moments of disaster. Ah, but when that occurs it will be romantic disaster, whimsical disaster, which definitely wasn't the case at Lake Placid, circa 1980, when an entire community displayed a growing meanness of spirit as things went wrong.
While Sarajevo is a place of warm and lively people, it has its problems as an Olympic site. The city lies under a permanent pall of smoke; most pre-Olympics athletes came down with what came to be known as Yugo Throat, and it's likely to strike again next year. There aren't enough hotel rooms, and there are few parking places in town and definitely not enough at the Olympic venues. There is, however, plenty of Yugoslav white wine, and it's terrific. And cheap.
The spoken language, Serbo-Croatian, rings and clangs with harsh sounds, and the written version is festooned with accent marks that hover above the words like tiny black gnats. Next year 98 translators will be working with the press at the Games. At times the English version of printed or spoken matter as rendered by translators on the job this winter resembled dialogue written for a 1930s Hollywood screenplay, back in the days when broken English was considered screamingly funny. "We have a nice history here," said translator Olivera Todoroviƒá, a 19-year-old premed student hired to work the pre-Olympics. "But after 500 years under the Turks, we are the world's most backwardness."
Asked to identify the tiny black birds that gather to sing raucously in the Sarajevo trees after dark, she said, "They are called"—Todoroviƒá makes the translation in her mind and then nods with assurance—"they are called 'insignificant birds.' " Aida Begleroviƒá, another translator, said, "Our people, they are still surprise by all this. I mean, we are seeing our very own downhill or bobsledding racing showing on our television, and we are all thinking, 'My God! This program could only be coming from another country!' "
But oh, yes, the show will go on, despite the fact that each of the pre-Olympic events brought with it a little crisis. It's no wonder that many of the locals came out of the far end slightly dazed by the enormity of their project. There was one Yugoslav Alpine official who, when asked what might solve the serious problems with the physical layout of the men's downhill course, stared thoughtfully at the mountain for a long moment and then murmured, "Send shovels."
Not all the visitors were pleased with their hosts' efforts. As the four-man bobsled trials wound down, Austrian Coach Josef Haidacher stood at the bottom of the new $20 million run, full of melancholy. He didn't like much of what he'd seen, from the smoky city to the food to the disorganization of what he called lazy people. "We are getting out of town schnell, schnell, schnell," Haidacher said. "Three weeks in Sarajevo is like three weeks in your Sing Sing."
A few days later, the Organizing Committee of the XIV Olympic Winter Games issued a cheery statement pointing out that with a year to go before the opening ceremonies, "there is very little work left, only the cosmetics."
Those were two of the extreme viewpoints of the month.
As it turned out, both opinions were wrong.
As you go up on the chair lift, rising swiftly above the tree line, the sight is impressive. Scary at times. Mount Bjela≈°nica (Byel-ASH-nee-tza) is 20 miles out of Sarajevo on a tortuous, 1½-lane road. The mountain is bald on top, and somehow sinister. Perhaps it's the ice, polished to a soft shine by the wind. One dismounts with the feeling that, if the Good Lord had meant for there to be a starting gate for downhill racers at the top of Bjela≈°nica, at 6,780 feet. He wouldn't have exposed it to such a blast. For this is a place where the warm winds off the Mediterranean meet the chill winds coming off the Continent, and when they clash, they swirl crazily, sweeping everything before them—including downhill racers.
The Yugoslavs understand all of this. But Bjela≈°nica is the only mountain around that can handle the men's Alpine events, and when you've got the Olympics, what can you do? (The giant slalom and slalom runs start a thousand feet down the mountain, tucked away a bit more safely in the trees.) Sarajevo has had a weather station on Bjela≈°nica since 1892, one of the first in all Europe, and the Yugoslavs have learned a lot in these 91 years. The mountain averages 12 feet of snow cover a season; the snow blankets the upper slopes an average of 217 days a year. That's the good news. The weather people are less eager to recall that the winter storms are doozies. They last an average of three days, they create huge drifts that obliterate all the ski runs, and they're powered by winds that can twirl the lift chairs around the cable like propellers until the whole thing takes off and flies to Albania. There are also days, as there were last month, that bring glare ice to the top of Bjela≈°nica and 50° warmth below, with folks idling about improving their suntans. The Winter Games usually have only one storm day built into their 12-day schedule, and there will be a great holding of breath next year as everyone prays for good weather.
For all its icy splendor, Bjela≈°nica isn't really a big mountain; indeed, it comes about 25 feet or so short of providing the 800 meters of vertical drop required for an official Olympic men's downhill. So, perched smartly on the very tip-top of Bjela≈°nica, like a New Year's Eve party hat, is a new ski lodge-restaurant. The top of the ski lift vanishes into the lower level of the not-quite-finished structure. One walks up several short flights of stairs to emerge in what will be a restaurant on the top floor. It has windows all around and the view is breathtaking—even as the windows rattle in the wind. Off to one side is a sundeck. On the southwest side of the mountain, the back side, one can look down on tiny farms that have remained unchanged for centuries, a land undisturbed by Olympic activity. But on the southeast side...
There it is: the official starting gate for the men's downhill. The Sundeck Getaway. The new structure adds enough elevation to the course to meet Olympic standards, with perhaps three meters to spare. This may be the first Olympics in history in which a downhiller could hand his luncheon tray over to a waitress, buckle on his crash helmet and say, "Ta ta, dahling, I'm off to the races." There's only a small matter of a 51-degree drop to negotiate on the way to the main part of the racecourse. It's like skiing off the side of the World Trade Center.
The pre-Olympic racers learned this and a lot more. The icy section from the starting gate to the safety of the tree line is roughly 700 feet, and with the wind swirling through in bursts, as it does up there, winning an Olympic gold medal—or any medal—might well be a matter of luck over skill. He who catches the lull will be lucky.
Farther down the run, rocketing along at some 70 mph, the skiers encounter still another weird situation: a series of bumps, some the size of a three-bedroom bungalow. They were bulldozed there in a misguided attempt to make the run truly Olympian in scope. "I couldn't believe how much time I spent in the air," said Canadian ace Steve Podborski. "Coming off the bumps and flying like some Superman, I'd look down between my skis and see myself passing over the spots where the others had landed." But the problem with Bjela≈°nica's artificial bumps, the racers found, was that whoever put them there hadn't figured out the geometry of landing; as a result, most racers came down on flat areas with great thunks that drew winces from anyone watching. While in training in the week before the pre-Olympic downhill, Switzerland's Peter M√ºller flew off one bump into a series of aerial maneuvers Podborski called "a helicopter followed by a head plant." M√ºller escaped with a severe concussion. "I think we should insist that our ski jumpers run this course—not the down-hillers," said Austrian Leonhard Stock.
The downhill consisted of a day of training, a day without snow and a day of racing. The Bad Day at Bjela≈°nica cost the Organizing Committee $40,000. To keep the racers around for the extra day and to avoid the embarrassment of not having a race, they had to agree to pay the competitors for an extra day's expenses at Sarajevo and at their next stop on the World Cup circuit.
But the result seemed to tell as much about the course as anything the racers had said. When everybody got down off the hill, the surprise winner was one Gerhard (They Call Me Fuffie) Pfaffenbichler, a big, bony, 20-year-old farm boy. He had absolutely bombed the course through its 35 gates in a terrific 1:48.81, comfortably ahead of Podborski (1:49.02) and Fuffie's teammate Franz Klammer (1:49.07). Fuffie announced how he loved the bumps. "I didn't ski the ideal line," he said, "but I was sure fast."
And then came the final Drama of the Downhill, acted out in the smoky lobby of the Bristol Hotel in Sarajevo.
It was dark outside. The bags and skis were packed and stacked in huge untidy piles in the lobby; outside, the buses were warming up for the trip to the airport. The racers lounged about, looking bored. It was that milling-around time so familiar to anybody who has ever been on a tour, skiing or otherwise. And into the lobby, strolling companionably and laughing, came Klammer and Fuffie. Suddenly there was an explosion—a sharp, bursting blam! like a gunshot.
"Aaaaarrrgh," Klammer yelled, and fell to the marble floor clutching his stomach. "Aaaaarrrgh," said Fuffie, who collapsed beside him. There was a shocked second of silence, a panicked moment of sharply indrawn breath. And then the Austrians all burst out laughing. On the lobby floor, still smoking, was a firecracker.
Swell. If there's one assumption that can safely be made about Sarajevo, it's that this definitely isn't the spot to pull off such a stunt—not here, where assassination lies on the edge of everyone's subconscious; not here, a few blocks away from the spot where a Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife to death on June 28, 1914, indirectly igniting World War I.
Still, the firecracker gag served to answer a nagging question. Until then, one faintly puzzling thing about the pre-Olympics was the apparent lack of security. Oh, there was the Yugoslav army, all right, but the soldiers were mostly unarmed young conscripts who marched up and down the courses to pack the trails. But now, suddenly, the Bristol lobby swarmed with plainclothes agents. They had undergone a lightning change, from lounge lizards slumped in lobby chairs to alert—and really ticked-off—cops. The young guy in charge was dressed in a tan sport coat and slacks. No tie. The least likely security agent in town. And now he was hot. He was all for strip-searching everybody on the spot.
"No fire, no fire," Fuffie protested in English, first opening his coat and then patting all his pockets to show that he didn't have any firecrackers on him. Klammer, trying hard to keep a straight face, pointed out that he certainly couldn't have done it. The rest of the Austrian team wore looks of sweet innocence. And off went the entire knot of agents and skiers to search rooms for firecrackers. The skiers all made the bus to the airport, of course.
Later in the week, Olympic press officer Mehmed Husiƒá pointed out that certainly the Sarajevans were worried about terrorists and of course definite precautions had been taken. "But we're not like other nations, with the uniformed men at every corner with their submachine guns," he said. "We don't do that. With we Yugoslavs," he said, "the best security man is the man you don't see he's there."
There's a spot midway down the bobsled run where the racers could—if they could get the timing right—swing their heads to the right and look down into the eyes of the spectators looking up at them. It's not that the sleds are hanging particularly high on this curve, it's just that the new run does some wonderful dipsy-dos on its way down the mountainside, and in a couple of sections it hangs up there over everybody's head.
"Well, it does give you a real buzz," said Martin Dawes, a rangy member of the British team. The British have a stunning, glossy-black sled. Not fast, mind you, just stunning. "This monster run is a bit fearful at first."
Exactly. The bobsled-luge run will come to be known as the Great Buzzer, the turn-on of the 1984 Winter Games. And for a number of very good reasons: The run has become Sarajevo's new toy, perhaps the best present a town could get in these hard times. It sits smack above the city in a hillside notch called Trebeviƒá. A cable car runs right up to it; or one could stroll up in a leisurely hour or so. Trebeviƒá has long been a sort of parklike preserve for picnicking by day and necking by night. And now, after dark each day, the run is brightly lit like a jeweled necklace for all the town to see. Cab drivers proudly point it out to foreign passengers: "See up there? Our bob run."
The guy who created this masterpiece had never built a bob run before, which, as it turns out, is obviously the way to go. Gorazd Buƒçar, a city engineer, collected advice from several international sledding experts—just about every visiting team at the pre-Olympics took bows for having helped—and came up with a new concept in bobsled-luge. It's the world's first sectional, move-it-around, refrigerated run. After the Olympics and between championship meets, it can be unhooked here and there to form three independent separate runs so that Mom, Pop, everybody in town can go sledding on them.
But for now the sledders face a 4,084-foot dash that starts at 3,636 feet altitude and ends with a mighty swoop at 3,223 feet, a 413-foot vertical drop. The steepest grade in the run is 15 degrees, which sounds innocent enough—except that you're on ice. The run snakes through 13 curves, six to the left and seven to the right, a couple of them real neck-wrenchers. "There's no time to rest," says Ekkehard Fasser, pilot of the Swiss four-man sled that blew everybody away in the competition. "After the seventh curve, everything has to be just so. The remainder of the turns are very tight, and there isn't a brakeman here who isn't hurting right now."
The hot two-man sleds were making the run in 49 and 50 seconds—which computes out to an average speed of 55 to 56 mph—and the big sleds were just a bit quicker than that. "That's fast," says East Germany's Wolfgang G√ºtewort. "You reach 62 miles an hour at the fourth or fifth curve. Maybe 77 miles an hour is your top speed." Buƒçar agrees, but figures that when they get all the kinks worked out the sleds will top out at maybe 93 mph.
Perhaps they will at the Olympics. But for this winter's cheering Sarajevo crowd, a few miles an hour more or less wasn't going to make any difference. The pre-Olympic show was also the official European championships, involving 39 two-man and 24 four-man crews from 15 countries, and nobody in town had ever seen an event this big.
A wide gravel pathway meanders alongside the bob run—in some spots ducking underneath—and the path is packed with spectators. Here and there along the trail are refreshment stands—maybe the only hot dog stands in the world that sell slivovitz, hearty slugs of it in little airline-type bottles. The Swiss sled wins the four-man gold medal. ≈Ωivili! Bernhard Lehmann and Bogdan Musiol of East Germany win the two-man. ≈Ωivili! The orange sleds of Yugoslavia finish way back there, but aren't they brave lads? ≈Ωivili! The empties litter the path and the fierce smell of slivovitz hovers like a fog over the crowd.
The locals learn the language and magic of bobsledding quickly. At the start, they watch as the sledders appear in skintight racing suits, crash helmets and elbow pads. The racers lean against their sled and raise their feet, and a trainer scrapes their shoes with a wire brush to give them traction on the ice. Then, rocking the sled back and forth, they chant the countdown in unison. This is the moment the crowd is waiting for. For some arcane reason, bobsledders have always started with this chant. It takes no time to learn and it comes in no special language. And now, as the racers push off, the onlookers all yell in thunderous unison, "Hup, hup! Chuck, chuck, chuck!"
No wonder it's such a great venue. You get to watch and, in a small way, participate. And the lugers, when they come to town a week later, provide much the same kick. "I'm really impressed," says Bonnie Warner, 20, a U.S. luger from California's Mt. Baldy Village. "Usually you can't satisfy both sports with a combination bobsled-luge run. Bobsledders like big, wide curves, and lugers like them tight. But this is a compromise between the two—with all of the speed thrown in."
And now the time has come to head back down the pathway and check out the refreshment stands. One or two of the bobsleds have gone belly up, but there are no critical injuries.
Quite a few spectators have gone belly up, too.
She blasts under the finish line banner in perfect form, in a full racing tuck with legs firmly apart and head down, and then, after skidding to a stop, grabs the team radio to report back to the racers waiting on top. "It's in better shape than I thought," says Cindy Oak of the U.S. ski team. "Tell them just to put their heads down and punch it." Then she looks back up the course to watch her competition. Oak is wearing a crash helmet emblazoned with what appear to be Harley-David-son wings, and when she pulls it off, her tawny blonde hair falls in braids. She's 22, 5'8" and lean at 145 pounds. "I don't know," Oak says as she watches other, slightly faster, times being posted. "Maybe I hit it too hard."
This is the finish of the women's downhill, a pre-Olympic and World Cup event being staged in an out-at-the-elbows ski resort called Jahorina, the least attractive of all the Olympic venues. This mountain is on the other side of town from Bjela≈°nica and is more modest in almost all of its dimensions. The start is perched at 6,140 feet, and the course snakes through thick stands of fir and evergreens over a 1,794-foot vertical drop, most of it ambling along at an average 29-degree grade. There's one stretch in the middle where there's a 56-degree pitch. With all that, the course can't seem to make up its mind what it wants to be. "It's too short for an Olympic run," says Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein. "In the middle it's more like a giant slalom."
"There is, sure enough, a bit of GS in there," says Holly Flanders, 25, from Deerfield, N.H. "The problem is that the course runs right through this narrow gully or gulch, and about the only thing they could do was to put more control gates in there. It's marginal. It's not the best downhill we've ever had."
The winner is perky Maria Walliser of Switzerland, who covers the course in 1:19.28. Nobody seems particularly impressed. It all might be just one more stop on the circuit.
But, at last! Drama is about to come to Jahorina. A howling storm strikes in the middle of the night, and the officials decide that if they don't tell anybody about it, perhaps it'll go away.
It doesn't. Indeed, by early Sunday morning, when the troupes of racing innocents are busing slowly up the narrow road from Sarajevo for the women's giant slalom, Jahorina is being slashed by the most savage storm of the season. Winds are blasting through at 75 mph, the lift is shut down and flags, poles, and gates have long since vanished under snowdrifts. Some racers and team captains are out on the course awaiting instructions; everybody else huddles inside the lodge, faces pressed to the windows. Finally, about noon, team by team, the racers start to escape, groping their way through the parking lot with arms outstretched and parkas flapping as if in a scene from Lost Horizon.
Back downtown, the Organizing Committee produces a bulletin announcing that it had decided at 8:10 not to conduct course inspection and at 8:35 had decided to call everything off. "Teams were notified of this immediately," the bulletin says. It sounds efficient, but unhappily, as Nick Howe of the U.S. team points out, it simply isn't true. "Our people and other teams as well were on the hill and on their radios all morning trying to find out what was going on," he says.
The departing women have a suggestion for 1984: If it's storming that badly on Jahorina, simply hang out a sign at the bottom of the road, CLOSED FOR INVENTORY. Or whatever.
Now, back to the ski-jump venue. But this time the day is so bright, the skies are so brilliant, that a couple of thousand or so Sarajevans have trekked up from town. Lord knows how; the nearest parking is back on the road, far, far down the mountainside. They've brought the kids; they've brought homemade sleds and picnic lunches in plastic sacks; and they've brought many, many bottles of you-know-what. Blankets are spread on the snow, and before long, snowmen appear magically here and there, many in the likeness of Vuƒçko—Wolfie, in Serbo-Croatian—the Olympic mascot.
Men are falling out of the sky. They are etched vividly for brief seconds against the blue and then the green of the fir trees as they descend from the 90-meter jump.
The 90- and 70-meter ski jumps sit side by side, towering over the rolling Plain of Igman. Legendary Igman, the Yugoslavs call it, because on a bitterly cold February day in 1942 a band of 1,200 partisans escaped German encirclement by means of a forced march across the plain. The plain opens upward into a stunning high-mountain meadow, a shoulder of Mount Bjela≈°nica, whose peak, even on this bright day, is lost in swirling snow.
Making giant looping circles and figure eights through the meadow are Nordic racecourses, most of them laid out to follow the natural rolling terrain. All 14 Nordic skiing events will be staged here next February, and a lodge will be built at the far edge of the meadow to serve the competitors. For pure sport, far from the madding downtown crowd, Nordic competitors usually have the best of it. "We're happy," says Mike Gallagher, the chief U.S. men's cross-country coach. "The courses are good, though the women's are a bit tough. We'll have some winners and some losers, as they say."
Happy, indeed. The U.S. teams now being assembled and hammered into shape by Nordic Team Director Jim Page might be the surprise of next season. Lean and powerful, Nordic combined ace Kerry Lynch, 25, put in a dismal day at the 70-meter jumps, finishing 22nd, and then came back the next day to blow everybody's doors off in the 15-km race, to pull up to 10th overall. In 1984, says Page, "Kerry should consistently finish in the top five."
The star of the show, of course, is Bill Koch, who, at 27, strides across the landscape with mature confidence. His silver in the 30 km at Innsbruck in 1976 made him the first American ever to win an Olympic medal in cross-country, and here on the Plain of Igman, the reigning World Cup champion puts on a couple of stunning new moves. Early in the competition, Koch breaks a basket on a ski pole just after the start of the 15 km and finishes far back in the pack. Then in the murderous 30 km, he's last in the starting sequence. He's using no-wax skis, because he and Gallagher figure that the weather is so changeable, and one of the skis is broken. Well, it's a favorite pair and it isn't a bad break. By the end of the first lap Koch is running second. "I passed more people today than I ever have in my career," he says later. He finishes first, in 1.29:56.8, to continue his World Cup domination. The next man in, Norway's Lars Erik Erikson, is two minutes back. "I didn't feel really good," says Koch calmly, "but my skis were great."
That's what Koch said, all right. But here's what the Organizing Committee official bulletin said he said:
"I went for all or nothing. I simply had to rehabilitate from the failure in the 15-km race. I went for the finish so to say from the start. I didn't care about the snow that stuck to my skis nor the wind that froze my breath. I had the best intermediate time, which gave me strength to hold out to the finish. I am especially happy with this victory. I really wanted to triumph in Olympic Sarajevo. I hope that I'll have a similar success in 1984 at the Games...."
This is indeed a strange country, as promised, and not all the picnickers know what's going on, only that it's something truly big and it involves flags and a lot of fun. Back in town, journalist Aida Begleroviƒá had said, "We are not an intense people. It's not our nature to be caring too much for schedule." And that says a lot about the Winter Games to come; the independent-minded Yugoslavs are in the process of getting up an Olympics of gentle chaos.
Walking up the stairway alongside the 90-meter ski jump, Jeff Hastings, 23, America's premiere jumper, pauses to survey the party scene far below. "The thing about Yugoslavia," he says, "is that I hover between elation and despair at the organization. But the people are so nice."