These two weeks of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi have been an exciting time to be Norwegian. At the start of the Olympics, we read several places that Norway and the USA would be neck in neck in the medal count competition, and some sources, such as the Wall Street Journal, even predicted that Norway would beat the USA, if only by a slim margin. It’s pretty fun that a little country like Norway with only 5 million people could maybe beat the USA with its population of 313.9 million, or at least give it a good run for its money!
I’m always proud to be Norwegian, but the feeling certainly intensified when the Opening Ceremonies began. It was with great anticipation that I waited for Norway to enter the arena. Even the kids, who by then had lost some interest in the Parade of Nations, eagerly focused on the TV again to see Norway enter. We were tracking the number of athletes each nation had, and Norway’s 118 athletes certainly surprised the kids, who had predicted about 20 since they knew Norway is so small compared to other countries.
I love watching all the countries enter, some nation groups are very large and others extremely small, at times just one athlete, but each and every one of them is equally excited to be there. I’m fascinated by the stories behind each country’s participation in the Olympics.
As the Winter Games progressed, we enthusiastically followed both Norwegian and American athletes in their events. There wasn’t too much competition directly between the two countries, so we could generally cheer for each country in their respective events without feeling unpatriotic towards the other.
We did have a couple of conflicts, though. In Men’s Slopestyle and Men’s Super-G, both Norway and USA were in the running for medals, and happily for us, they both ended up on the podium. USA took gold in Slopestyle while Norway’s Ståle Sandbech took silver. In Super-G, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud won gold while USA took silver and bronze. They were exciting days for our Norwegian-American household.
The kids are now familiar with events not normally in the forefront of American minds—biathlon, cross-country skiing, and Nordic combined—but very popular with Norwegians. And they know about a new Norwegian hero, Ole Einar Bjørndalen. They may not be able to spell or pronounce his name, but they do know that the athlete with the most medals in the history of the Winter Games is a Norwegian biathlete.
An unexpected amusement from these Olympic Games has been Norway’s bold fashion statements. The men’s curling team’s pants made headlines before the Games even opened. The team wore nine different pairs of pants during competitions, and there was even a Facebook page for fans. I was not able to see all the pants in action, but I scoured the Internet to find pictures for you. Click on the photo to see the patterns even better.
And Norway’s hockey team had very cool goalie masks… They pictured the Northern Lights, a Viking warrior, and a tribute to the Norwegian movie Trollhunter.
An added benefit of Norway making headlines and doing so well in the Winter Olympics is that people are becoming more aware of Norway and maybe even learning a bit about our culture. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about how Norway’s culture and lifestyle could be the reason for Norway’s success at Winter Olympics. Norwegians thrive in the great outdoors. “Norway remains a largely agrarian society that places a large premium on being outside. A Norwegian concept called friluftsliv—enjoying outdoor life—has been studied in books and represents whole areas of study at universities.” The author remarks how Norway’s cities are relatively close to the wilderness, and children are encouraged to play outdoors even on the coldest days. There’s a saying in Norway, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
The author also noted many other specific reasons that may contribute to Norway’s success: skiing is fundamental the country’s culture, athletes benefit from the large annual budget of Norway’s main organization for elite Olympic sports, high paying jobs allow people to enjoy much leisure time and spending money, and Norway competes in a sport—cross-country skiing—that has limited interest elsewhere and isn’t very competitive. The article is definitely worth a read if you’re interested and have the time.
These couple of weeks we’ve proudly worn anything with the Norwegian flag. I found a t-shirt at Sports Chalet with lots of flags on it and the Norwegian one stood out so of course I bought it, and I’ve worn it several times. Sonny has even worn his Norwegian sports jersey to soccer practices.
No matter what the final medal count is, I will be satisfied and proud. I feel the Olympic Games bring a great sense of community to the world. Everyone has something in common and can relate to it in one way or another. I feel kind of sad when it’s all over. I will watch the Closing Ceremonies with a mixed heart. The party is over and it’s back to the daily grind.
Now we wait anxiously to see if Oslo will bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff makes a great plea here in an open letter to the citizens of Norway. I personally would be thrilled if Oslo were to host the 2022 Winter Games. I know there’s great debate and opposition in Norway, so we’ll see what happens.