The long-term legacies of hosting the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games played a crucial role in bringing the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) to the Norwegian city, according to Lillehammer 2016 CEO Tomas Holmestad.
“We would never be able to host the YOG were it not for the 1994 Winter Games being held in Lillehammer,” explains Holmestad. “There are many legacies from 1994 - the existing Olympic venues, for instance, were critical to our bid.”
The venues used during Lillehammer 1994, which is widely regarded as the first ‘green Games’, have since been used by both the general public and elite athletes and have staged several other major sporting events, as well as concerts and other cultural and commercial meetings.
“You could say that the 2016 Winter YOG are built on the legacy of 1994,” says Holmestad. “The main reason that we are also going to be a ‘green Games’ is that we have almost no environmental impact from building or constructing venues – they are all still standing there from 1994.”
The Lillehammer 1994 Organising Committee initiated more than 20 sustainability projects to ensure the Games were as environmentally friendly as possible, and Holmestad is keen to see the 2016 Winter YOG follow a similar model.
“All of the venues in the Lillehammer Olympic Park are now being certified with a Norwegian standard, called the Eco-Lighthouse, which shows that they are still at the forefront of sustainability efforts by operating in an environmentally friendly way,” he explains. “We have also been able to talk to local companies who were involved in 1994 about issues such as waste management, and they are leaders in these fields because of what was initiated as a part of the 1994 Winter Games. So in 2016, we will be able to benefit from what was done on sustainability during the 1994 Games.”
Holmestad, who grew up just 15 minutes from Lillehammer, can remember the 1994 Winter Games having a profound impact on the city.
“I was young at the time,” he explains. “I was only 13 years old but knew it was a massive event. I can remember the amazing atmosphere, the fantastic weather and the crazy amount of people that gathered in our small city. I also remember the environmental programmes, such as not being able to drive in the city during the Games and using edible plates at the food stalls in the venues.”
Holmestad is now working to ensure that Lillehammer 2016 has a similar impact on the young athletes’ attitudes towards the environment.
“The 1994 Games definitely set new standards in the technical aspects of sustainability and we would certainly like to build on that legacy,” he explains. “One of the ways we hope to do that is through a living legacy in the minds of the 1,100 young athletes who will come to Lillehammer in 2016.
“Through the Culture and Education Programme, we aim to give them good knowledge and attitudes towards sustainability and environmentally-friendly solutions. I think that could be one of the great legacies of Lillehammer 2016.”
Holmestad also hopes that the 2016 Winter YOG will help support the development of youth sport in Norway, while also inspiring local young people in the same way that he was inspired by the events of 1994.
“Of course, 1994 led to a massive change in Lillehammer,” he says. “The town was never the same after the Games, and we hope to relight that Olympic spirit.”