FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Tito’s relay races

Posted in Beograd, Serbia by folkestonejack on October 15, 2011

A left turn from the central courtyard of Tito’s mausoleum takes you into an absolutely fascinating exhibition about the annual relay of youth, which took place from 1945 until 1987. I’d never heard of the relay races before but soon found myself utterly engrossed in the story of how these came about and the enthusiasm with which the event was taken up.

Exhibition about Tito's relay races at the House of Flowers

The mass relay races were organized in honour of Tito’s birthday and for the first event 12,500 runners covered a distance of 9000km before the batons were handed over to Tito. As the event became more established the number of batons, kilometres and carriers increased with some estimates suggesting that there over one million participants by 1950. The handover of the final baton with its birthday message became an event in itself, taking place in the JNA stadium (now Stadion FK Partizan) from 1955.

The museum holds a collection of over 22,000 relay batons ranging from the home made efforts of ordinary folk through to the intricately designed batons intended for the handover to Tito. A selection of these are on display and I spent ages wandering up and down the display cases looking at these. At the end of the room an entire wall has been given over to the batons and it is wonderful to run your eye up, down and across examining the ingenuity of their creators. They are reason enough to visit the mausoleum in their own right.

Wall display of relay race batons

Relay race batons on display at the House of Flowers

Relay race batons on display at the House of Flowers

The museum has published a book ‘Relay races 1945-1987’ (Museum of Yugoslav History, 2008) which can be purchased for 450 dinars at the small souvenir shop at the entrance. You can also purchase other memorabilia such as Tito lapel pins, drinks mats, t-shirts and key rings!

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