SPORTS  AND  RECREATION
Croatians enjoy many sporting activities and Croatia's athletes have gained international recognition. Various sporting institutions, including the Gymnastics Club, Marksman's Society and Mountaineering Society, originated in the 19th century in Zagreb, which is still the home of much organized sport in Croatia.

The most popular spectator sport is soccer. Croatia's national team, created in 1907, placed third in the 1998 World Cup. Other popular sports include basketball, handball, tennis, sailing, water polo, swimming and mountaineering. Kresimir Cosic is one of only three international players to be elected to the world's Basketball Hall of Fame in Massachusetts. Another famous basketball player is Drazen Petrovic, whose monument stands at Olympic Park in Lausanne, Switzerland; he led his team to a silver medal in the 1992 Olympics. In tennis, Mirjana Lucic won the 1998 Australian Open women's doubles at age 15. Croatian athletes have also won Olympic medals in swimming, skiing and kayaking.

Hiking and climbing are two of the most popular activities in Croatia. The country offers more than 20 mountains with peaks higher than 1,000 metres. Anika Kuk rock (700 metres) is a favourite training place for mountaineers, as are the mostly bare Velebit Mountains. Stipe Bozic, who trained in his native country, went on to climb Mount Everest twice.

Almost 40% of Croatia is forested, and hundreds of areas have been set aside as preserves for hunting, a tradition practiced for both food and sport. The most common game are wild boar, bear, pheasant, partridge and hare. When families visit a forest, men may go off to hunt while women gather truffles and other foods.

Along the Adriatic, going to the beach is a very popular pastime. Another relaxing activity is the Croatian game of balote, a type of bowling played on a sandy rectangle, often by village men on warm evenings.

Croatians also enjoy attending cultural events, especially ones showcasing Croatian folklore. Almost every city, island or village has an annual fair, festival or artistic exhibit; Zagreb has hosted fairs since the 13th century. Its International Folklore Festival in July features songs and dances from all over the country.


  Did you know?
Alka, a game held in August, is actually a loose staging of the historic defeat of the Turks in 1715 by the Croatians of Sinj. The galloping alkari horsemen, dressed in traditional costumes, attempt to push their lances through a ring hanging from a rope.




  Did you know?
Skier Janica Kostelic recently set a world record by winning four medals in alpine skiing at the 2002 Winter Olympics. She captured three gold and one silver.