There has been much discussion in the news over the U.S. vs Madrid bid for the 2016 Olympics and it has inspired us here at the Nordic Company to reflect on what we think was a shining moment for Norway and one of the most exciting times in Scandinavian travel for us: in 1994,when the Winter Olympics came to Lillehammer.
Norway was made for the Winter Olympics. Their cold climate and constant snow coupled with their rough-and-rugged population that prids themselves on physical fitness is precisely what has allowed them to nab 280 medals at the Winter Olympics – more than any other nation. In fact, Norway is just one of three nations to have won more medals at the Winter Olympics than at the Summer Olympics.
At the heart of their Olympic pride lies the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. Opened in 1892, the Holmenkollen remains the second oldest ski jump in the world. It became the focal point of the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, rising 60 meters above ground and 417 meters above sea level. It is now also one of Norway’s best known tourist destinations. From the top, visitors are afforded a spectacular panaromic view of the city of Oslo and its glittering Oslofjord. Below, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum (opened in 1923 and still the oldest ski musuem in the world) offers a comprehensive history of the area and an interactive video game that allows you to see and feel what ski jumpers do when they put themselves over the edge. It’s crazy!
But don’t let the ski jump take you away from the town either. What makes Lillehammer so unique is that it remains the host of the last Winter Olympics to date that has been held in a small town. Norway beat out Alaska and Sweden for the bid and Lillehammer has since flourished into a charming, but quaint tourist haven with good shopping and delicious cafes.
If you ask the locals what they think were the highlights from the 1994 Olympics, aside from Norway’s many medals, they usually tell you two things: “When Tanya Harding’s ex-husband hired a man to take out Nancy Kerrigan in the knee” and “when on the day of the opening ceremony, art thieves stole the famous Edvard Munch painting from the National Museum in Oslo.” And next, they will tell you about the construction taking place at Holmenkollen right now, set for an improved ski jump to open in 2012 for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championship.
This last bit has become a particular obsession of mine. The architecture company has been kind enough to post a webcam of the construction process on their website – which you can check out here, but be careful, because witnessing the building of a legacy – well, like most things in Scandinavia, it’s addicting.