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News 08 Aug 16

Facebook Satirists Plan Kelmendi Welcome Party in Serbia

Making fun of Serbia's dismay over Kosovo's participation in Rio, Serbian Facebook fans have jokingly called for a party in Belgrade to celebrate the Kosovo gold medal winner Majlinda Kelmendi.

Ivana Nikolic
An event was created shortly after Kelmendi's victory. Photo: Facebook screen shot.

After judo star Majlinda Kelmendi won Kosovo's first Olympic medal in Rio, a satirical Facebook page has appeared, appearing to organise a celebratory event in front of the Belgrade City Assembly – a traditional spot for welcoming Serbian athletes.

The promised event, entitled "Welcome for Majlinda Kelmendi in front of City Assembly", appeared only hours after the 25-year-old won her gold in Rio on August 8.

“Judoka Majlinda Kelmendi has won the first Olympics medal for Serbia’s heart,” the page says, referring to a favourite saying of Serbian nationalists, that Serbia's former province is the heart, or cradle, of Serbia.

Although Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Serbia has vowed never to recognize this and its constitutional preamble declares that Kosovo is still part of the national territory.

The Facebook text recalls Majlinda’s road to her gold medal, noting that, in the end, by beating her chief rival, Italy’s Odette Giuffrida, she thus “brought gold to the heart of Serbia.”

“Technical sports minister Vanja Udovicic and Prime Minister-designate Aleksandar Vucic will also come and make the event bigger … [but] Vucic will step down from the balcony before Majlinda appears on it,” the text concludes.

This was a reference to the Serbian government's advice to Serbian athletes in Rio to leave the winners' pedestal if they have to share it with anyone from Kosovo.

That decision was announced by minister Udovicic, formerly one of Serbia’s best-ever water polo players, who ditched the swimming pool for a government post.

Apart from that recommendation, Udovicic welcomed the fact that the Serbian delegation had received assurances that the Kosovo players will be located in a far-away part of the Olympic village.

“There will be no meetings and no intimacy between our athletes and athletes from Kosovo,” Udovicic told Serbia's public broadcaster RTS, causing an outcry on social media.

The Serbian government has also promised rich cash prizes for winners – up to 45,000 euros for anyone bagging a gold.

Money is not the only prize. Serbian athletes who win medals in Rio are in line for their very own Fiat 500 L, from the Kragujevac-based Fiat Chrysler firm.

The Facebook event has already attracted much attention both from Kosovo and Serbia.

“We would like to invite our technically-resigned-but-still-not-constituted Government, and Fiat Srbija - to respect the given word and the Serbian Constitution's Preamble [on Kosovo]!!!,” one comment underneath reads.

“Will she be given a national pension?,” another one asked, referring to the rule that all Serbian athletes who win medals in leading sport competitions will get a pension for life for their contribution to the country.

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