In February 1994, the Olympic Winter Games in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer left a lasting impression on athletes and spectators alike. Surrounded by scenery straight out of a fairy tale, and under a Norwegian sun that shone brightly despite freezing temperatures, the action unfolded in an exceptional atmosphere, in front of tens of thousands of enthusiastic fans.
The Games took place within a highly compact area, creating a particularly intense experience for the athletes thrived in a space where they could easily share their experiences, strike up friendships and enjoy the human element of the Games, as well as scale new sporting heights.
An emotional Opening Ceremony, which was held at the town’s Lysgårdsbakken Ski Jumping Arena in front of 35,000 excited spectators, got the ball rolling on 12 February 1994. Norwegian ski jumper Stein Gruben launched himself from the top of one of the hills with the Olympic torch in hand, landing in the middle of the stage, where he handed it off to Paralympic cross-country skier Katrine Nøttingnes. Finally, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus lit the cauldron, signalling that the festivities could begin.
Birkebeineren, Lysgårdsbakken and Hafjell: Back to the future
Birkebeineren Skistadion, which hosted the memorable cross-country and biathlon competitions, attracted tens of thousands of fans in 1994, who created an unforgettable atmosphere within the stadium itself and along the tracks. It is at this same venue that all of the biathlon and cross-country skiing events will be held during the upcoming Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016.
Less than 15km from central Lillehammer, the cheers of ecstatic crowds also still resound at Hafjell ski resort, where the technical Alpine skiing events made a huge impact over two decades ago. Young skiers from around the world will soon test themselves on the same demanding slopes, while the resort’s Freepark will provide the stage for part of the Alpine skiing and the slopestyle snowboarding.
Right in the centre of town, the Lysgårdsbakken ski hills, scene of the Games curtain-raiser and subsequently a series of brilliant sporting performances, remain at the disposal of local residents, some of whom will be hoping to emerge as national heroes in February 2016?
Hamar and the Gjøvik Cavern
Another venue that is likely to wow the YOG competitors is the Hamar Olympic Hall, built especially for the 1994 Games and designed to resemble an upturned Viking ship. As it did first time around, the arena will host the speed skating in 2016. Also located in Hamar is the Olympic Ampitheatre, a superb construction in which the figure skating was held in 1994 and will be held again in 2016.
Another impressive architectural achievement can be found in Gjøvik, on the shores of the immense Lake Mjøsa, namely the Olympic Cavern Hall, a multipurpose structure built within a mountain and the largest building of its kind in the world. In 1994, it hosted some of the ice hockey matches, while in 2016 fans will be able to watch short track speed skating inside the unique venue.
Back in Lillehammer, the Olympic Sliding Centre, which also staged the 1995 FIBT World Championships, will be used for a new event, the monobob, as well as for three men’s and women’s luge and skeleton competitions during the YOG. Last but not least, Kristins Hall, where the world’s elite ice hockey players trained in 1994, and which has since been modernised, will accommodate the hockey and curling in 2016, in conjunction with the newly built and adjacent Youth Hall. In 2016, the magic of the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994 is set to come alive again, with another wonderful festival of sport in prospect.