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Ice pandas become cool family attraction

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-03-01 08:30
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"Panda family" sculpture by Goran Knezevic and Jelena Stanisic. [Photo/Xinhua]

SARAJEVO-Pandas live on a few high and damp mountains in Southwest China, where they feast mainly on bamboo leaves and shoots. They bear a lot of symbolic meaning in Chinese culture and pretty much everyone in the world agrees that they are adorably cute.

"Their natural habitat is far away, and we can't all enjoy their beauty here. But we can now enjoy looking at the giant snow sculptures of those gorgeous creatures," says Goran Knezevic, a ski lift operator at the Olympic Center Jahorina near Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Knezevic and his colleague Jelena Stanisic, who joined the finance sector of the OC Jahorina three years ago, are the creative duo behind the project. Both in their early 30s, they did not just come up with the idea but have also built the 5-meter-tall sculpture of a panda and four adorable cubs.

Knezevic has worked for the OC Jahorina for 15 years, and he is locally known for his skill in making snow sculptures of animals, such as penguins, swans and gorillas, but he has never created anything on this scale.

He says the sculpting of the "panda family" took almost a week as a change in the weather caused problems.

"The change in the weather caused the snow mass to settle and compress, losing almost 2 meters of its original height. We then had to give up on the original idea to shape the panda in a sitting position and had to improvise instead," Knezevic says, explaining that the biggest challenges were climbing the slippery snow pile and shaping the creature, as the snow was of a "poor quality".

The "panda family" became an instant hit on Jahorina Mountain, one of four mountains surrounding Sarajevo, where the 1984 Winter Olympics were held. The OC Jahorina is one of the most popular ski centers in the region, with its highest peak measuring 1,916 meters above sea level. Its 46 kilometers of alpine ski slopes with an artificial snow system, and 10 km of Nordic ski trails, draw up to 150,000 visitors per season.

"Visitors are overjoyed, and I am especially thrilled because all the children are so excited and happy around the sculptures," says Knezevic, explaining that the "panda family" has become a hot spot for taking selfies and family photos.

He adds that in the era of modern technology, virtual hangouts, and now social distancing, it is now more important than ever to spend more time in nature.

"To me, the panda is a symbol of peace, victory and friendship. They are unique, adorable, cute and, to us, exotic animals," says Knezevic, explaining that a recent online search took him to the Harbin International Ice Snow Sculpture Festival in China. He became fascinated with the photos of giant snow and ice sculptures, which is what sparked the idea of creating the sculptures at Jahorina.

Pandas have become one of the symbols of China. They symbolize peace and friendship because of their gentle temperament. Their black and white color is seen as the physical representation of yin and yang.

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