Lillehammer Olympics, once more with feeling?

The Norwegian town considers applying to host the Winter Olympics again in 2026

Photo: Spearhead / Wikimedia Commons
Much of the infrastructure from the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics is still in use today, including the ski jumps at Lysgårdsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena, where the opening ceremony took place that year.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo, Norway

It’s been a little over two years since Oslo’s dream of hosting the Winter Olympic Games was shut down when the Norwegian government advised the Olympic Committee not to apply, primarily based on a referendum among the city’s population. Now Lillehammer is considering throwing its hat in the ring for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.

Despite the city’s small size and population of approximately 30,000 people, Lillehammer has proven once before that size isn’t everything—even in the Olympic world. In 1994, when the Olympic fire was lit in Lillehammer, it proved to be a massive success. Over 16 days, little Lillehammer arranged one of the most atmospheric and efficient Olympic Games, Summer or Winter, of the modern era. Sports Illustrated called them “the fairy-tale Games… They could not exist. Reality cannot be this good.”

In the 20-plus years since the Lillehammer Olympics, many have argued that the focus of the Olympics has increasingly shifted away from the sports, instead prioritizing revenue and advertisements. The ticket prices have also skyrocketed. It has been stated that the Lillehammer Games were the last Olympic Games that were made truly for the people.

Because the sheer size of the Olympics has grown so much in the last 20 years, the city is thinking about letting other, bigger cities—like Oslo and Trondheim—host some of the sport events.

“It might be smart to let the Olympic Games be a project shared by the whole country since the Olympics has a completely different concept than what it was 20 years ago. The demands when it comes to infrastructure, for example, have changed a lot,” said the Mayor of Lillehammer, Espen Johnsen, to the press.

The fact that The International Olympic Committee has changed some of the rules when it comes to arranging the Olympics strengthens Lillehammer’s candidacy. IOC-member Gerhard Heiberg has stated that the IOC is willing to remove the rules about “compact games,” which opens up the opportunity to share the Olympic Games with other cities in different parts of the country.

In addition to Oslo’s wish to arrange the 2022 Olympics, Tromsø was in the running for arranging the 2018 games but was also turned down by the government. Some members of the press have speculated that it might lead to some discontent if Lillehammer is given the chance.

“It might provoke some people, but we have to be able to discuss it, especially now that there is more freedom when it comes to how the Olympic Games might be arranged. Norway and Lillehammer have a great opportunity here, since everyone remembers the success in 1994 and the success with the Youth Olympics in 2016. The members of the IOC know it will be a success,” Heiberg said.

Lillehammer’s city council has investigated the pros and cons of arranging the Games and has decided to move forward with their plans for now.

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the April 21, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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