Going to Lillehammer (three hours drive north of Oslo) always gives Norwegians good vibrations. This time kind of special to me, as we had my wife’s dad and his wife (here from the US to celebrate her birthday) visiting – a return of a favour from last fall when they took me to Lake Placid, NY. After that trip he said he had never seen a grown man so exited before. By taking him to Lillehammer, I wanted to show why. Winter sports and the Olympics is something that are near to Norwegians hearts and in 1994 it was a success, not only for the sports events, but because it was a blast of a folk celebration. 16 days in the loveliest winter weather in a small, charming and cosy town:

The city of Lillehammer (ski jump in the background).

The city centre is a well-preserved late 19th c. concentration of wooden houses, which enjoys a picturesque location overlooking the northern part of lake Mjøsa and the river Lågen, surrounded by mountains. The main street is excellent for people-watching, shopping and dining.


Main street of Lillehammer by day and night.

The area has been settled since the Norwegian Iron Age. It is mentioned in the old sagas as “Litlikaupangr” (‘the small trading place’) and as “Litlihamarr” (‘the small Hamar’ – to distinguish it from the town and the bishopric of Hamar). It is also mentioned as a site for council in 1390. It had a lively market by the 1800s, and obtained rights as a merchant city on August 7, 1827, at which point there were 50 registered residents within its boundaries.

Norwegian athletes were very successful in their home country. They won the most metals of any country. They won ten gold metals. Johann Olav Koss, a speed skater, set world records in three long-distance events. Visitors today can tour most of the facilities of the Olympic Park. Lillehammer opened an Olympics museum in 1998 to provide a history of the Olympics from 1896 to 1994 (some example pics):

Left: Winter Olympic flag from Oslo, Norway 1952
Right: Post from Lillehammer 1994


Lake placid – the only place hosting two winter Olympics!

I can’t give you a look back on 1994 without showing you the speed skating arena, the Viking Ship. We wanted to show the Norwegian heritage in architecture too of course. For those who haven’t read my post about these ships, please scroll down two posts or click here!

On the picture to the left (click all to enlarge!), you see the official banner for 1994. On top it symbols the Northern Lights and you can read more about that by clicking here!

The 1994 Games were extremely well organized and the Norwegian host’s natural love of winter sports added a refreshing purity of spirit. We have received much praise for the organization of the Olympics, its sportsmanship, and its hospitality. Athletes from sixty-six nations came to Norway in 1994 for the Seventeenth Winter Olympics and we never forget the words from (IOC) president J. A. Samaranch at the closing ceremony: ‘The best winter games ever!”. Then again Norwegian organizing committee’s slogan was: “They said we couldn’t do it, so we did”:-)

Update:
A very good friend reminded me of that Innsbruck, Austria also have hosted Winter Olympics two times; 1964 and 1976. Thanks TorAa – I never want to mislead my readers!

23 Comments

  1. wonderful post renny! i remember watching it and enjoying the notes on norwegian culture at that time, we had just returned to the northern hemisphere from a year in the tropics and we had the harshest winter in decades….17 blizzards in one winter…a lot for us! i was reminded there is no such thing as bead weather, only bad clothing.

    i also remember thinking the lillehammer games were conducted with such a high degree of class. it was a beautiful thing.

  2. How well I remember the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. I was a teenager in high school at the time, 17 years old. :-)

    I remember the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, too, and the beautiful snow.

    Good joy, Renny, and you brought back a lot of good memories of those Olympic winter games.

    We had about 3 inches of snow last night, but a lot of it is melting off today. We’re forecast to get more tonight into tomorrow. I hope so, I do love the snow!

    Have a great weekend, my friend. :-)

  3. I shouldn’t comment on this post. why?

    1) I hate winter and snow
    2) I hate winter sports

    I do love Norge though :-)

    *giggles*

  4. Hello fellow blogger,
    I think this is great reading of a blast in the Norwegian proud history of winter sports. And Lillehammer in peculiar. As you may recall, I did visit Lillehammer several times with Customers before the games, and really get a little bit fed up, so I went with my family to Chile. One evening in Valdivia, about 500 km South of Santiago with got a hotelroom with TV – I pushed the ON button and you know what: A Sports Channel – in American – and the days topic: Koss the Boss.
    Would you believe it, the very same day Norway won 3 gold medals. The five of us went proudly to town that evening – but there it was a Gautcho-parade.

    Thanks for this great post.

    btw. Innsbruck har også hatt 2 vinter OL, pga en by som trakk seg.

  5. have you watched the winter olympics?
    i have a simple wish, it is to just see a snow. heheeh ;p

  6. Now I know why Lillehammer is quite important coz I asked people here how Lillehammer is like. And they said it is just a normal city without anything special. The only exception was that it became a site for the Winter OL.

  7. @Lime: Thanks for the compliments and also for sharing your winter Olympics experience!

    @Diane J.: Glad you was there in 1980 and I even enjoyed the trip 26 years after:-)
    Hope you’ll have a wonderful snowy weekend then – take care1

    @Mrs.Lifecruiser: Glad you commented anyway my friend and you know I love Sweden too:-)

    @TorAa: Thanks for sharing your Olympics experience too – yes Koss was the Boss!
    Thanks for the corrections !! My post is updated of course!

    @Tin-tin: I was at Lillehammer for two days in 1994 – A must for a Norwegian you know!
    Come visit and see and feel snow – and also to claim your free lunch:-)

    @Charles: Glad this was an eye opener for you – Lillehammer is very special you know!

  8. I love people watching!

  9. Cool!Norway won lots of medals in Olympic. :) I love watching skiiers flying in the sky in olympic games.and you sure do have a good place for that :)

    nice post,Renny and have a nice weekend ahead :)

  10. What a beautiful, historic place to visit, best wishes, The Artist

  11. What a beautiful area Lillehammer is. I clearly remember being glued to the television while the ’94 Winter Olympics were on! Awesome pictures, Renny!

  12. when the olympics were in Lillehammer we would come home from work at night and i would say to my husband “what time is it?” and he would say “it’s Lillehammertime” *snort*

    Michele sent me.

  13. It is totally selfish but every time I hear about Lillehammer I think about Calgary hosting the Winter Olympics! I was too young to know if we pulled it off well, however it was brought our country so much pride to host the winter sports.

    When I read your post I had pains of homesickness, not only for Canada but anywhere that had snow!

    The pictures are fantastic and the post was wonderful to read! Thanks!

  14. wow! Such great pics. I’d really love to visit and see all of that. Of course I remember from your pics how different it is in the summer time… I like these winter pics better…

    And yes we have the olympics coming to us in 2010 for winter… It will literally be less than 10 mins drive to where it is held for us!

  15. Thanks for the tour! It looks like a fun place to visit :)

  16. What a nice tour of the area. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  17. You know, Renny, I think Norway is one of those countries that everyone loves to love! And your winter sports is one of the reasons. I’m very sure I spent a lot of time watching those Olympics back in 1994, even though I don’t remember the specifics.

    So glad you were able to return your FIL’a favor. :)

  18. Mother of Invention

    Those ’94 Olmypics I remember fondly…Brian Williams doing the Cdn coverage and he’s take us all around Norway to learn the culture. The Viking Ship speed skating rink was so cool…so Norway! They were so well done, I bet it made all of you there proud!

  19. I know how you feel about Lillehammer. I get the same excitement in Calgary.
    We do not have hundreds of years beautiful heritage buildings to show off here, but the civic pride is still high.

    We all look forward to Whistler here in Canada!

  20. I really need to visit your country one day ! Looks so beautiful !

  21. I love the look of the town, snuggled in the coastline like that! Great post – I enjoyed reading and learning a little about Lillehammer!

    And a big Hi! back to you in Norway!

  22. @Dave: Me too and Olympics is a great opportunely you know:-)

    @Ghee: Agree; they looks like birds!

    @TheArtist: Thanks and welcome when you have the time!

    @Lisa: I was there for two day but other than that I was glued to TV too:-)

    @Barbie2be: LoL – I think I had the same feeling as your husband:-)

    @Chelle: Calgary was great too, but not a success for the Norwegian you know.
    Well, I am so glad we have really winter in Norway now.
    Thanks for the compliments on the pics!

    @ET: Yes, Lillehammer shows best in winter time.
    I envy you being so close to the 2010 Olympics – please keep us posted when the time comes!

    @Teena: Your welcome – always!

    @Hexe: Yes it was great and you are welcome too!

    @Ginnie: Thanks dear – how flattering and I do hope so!

    @MotherOfInvention: Good to hear and glad you liked the Ship! We are very proud, yes:-)

    @Lynn: I know the feeling and say: Go Canada, go!

    @Sidney: Tell me when you are coming – I’ll gladly guide you around!

    @Annelisa: Good to see new visitors and glad you could fine something of interest. Welcome back any time!

  23. I visited the Lillehammer Museum in 1994, and, as I went down the staircase, I saw on a window display a red t-shirt with a white splash of snow and a girl on skis… I never forgot it.. But it was raining, and we couldm’t stop… Do you srill have it?

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