SARAJEVO (AFP) - Thousands of cyclists swarmed through Sarajevo on Sunday in a "Race for Peace" to mark 100 years since Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination here sparked World War I.
The throng including 140 professional racers rode from predominantly Bosnian-Serb eastern Sarajevo to the centre of the city, which has been administered separately by Muslim-Croats since the end of Bosnia's devastating 1992-95 war.
It was the ceremonial opening leg of the Sarajevo Grand Prix, sponsored by the Tour de France, aiming to promote peace in a city that has so often been the centre of conflict.
"This is a step toward bringing people throughout Bosnia together and this is what we, cyclists, have already been doing for some time here," Bosnian Serb cyclist Zeljko Vukic told AFP.
Archduke Ferdinand's assassination on June 28, 1914, coincided with the Paris kickoff of the 12th Tour de France, noted Tour de France manager Christian Prudhomme.
"The race started from Porte de Saint-Cloud in Paris, and later in the morning the archduke was murdered," he told AFP.
After Sunday's ceremonial ride, led by Mr Prudhomme, the professional cyclists from 40 countries began the race proper, marking the first international event of its kind in Bosnia.
It will cover 140 kilometres, passing through the country's three post-war entities populated by Muslim, Serb and Croat communities. Some 100,000 people were killed in Bosnia's inter-ethnic war.