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  • Norway Celebrates Olympic Gala


    Ruggiero in Lillehammer
    (ATR) Angela Ruggiero is renowned for scoring clutch goals for USA Hockey, but her current mission has been providing an all-important assist to the Lillehammer Youth Olympic Games organizers.

    The four-time Olympic medalist and Lillehammer 2016 YOG coordination commission chair was in the 1994 Olympic city for celebrations marking one month to the second winter YOG.

    Ruggiero was the keynote speaker at the Norwegian Sports Gala seminar on Jan. 9.

    “Athletes will have a great experience and remember Lillehammer 2016 for the rest of their lives,” she told members of Lillehammer 2016, the Norwegian NOC and other guests.

    “I’m excited to share what we’ve working on for so many years, because I think it will be fantastic,” she said of the Lillehammer YOG.

    The 36-year-old hockey hall of famer also reflected on her improbable climb to the pinnacle of women’s ice hockey, growing up playing against boys in southern California before the sport was on the Olympic program.

    “Girls in California didn’t play hockey and I came from a blue collar family that didn’t have much,” Ruggiero said. “A lot of things had to happen for me to achieve Olympic success, get two degrees from Harvard, become an IOC member and get into the (hockey) Hall of Fame.”

    Between her four Olympic medals and ten world championship medals (four gold, six silver), Ruggiero is the winningest hockey player on the international level.

    She told Around the Rings on a cold and snowy afternoon in Lillehammer that Norway’s vast winter sports experience means “we’re very confident that they’re going to do a great job.

    “At this point, it’s mostly fine tuning, making sure all the logistics are in place, the coordinating of the volunteers and the things you worry about with a big event as opposed to a world championship,” Ruggiero said.

    Considering that Oslo dropped its bid for the 2022 Winter Games due to lack of public support and governmental financial guarantees, Ruggiero believes the Lillehammer YOG could have a resounding effect on Norway.
    Countdown clock on the Storgata in Lillehammer

    “We want the Games to be successful from the youth Olympic standpoint, just as much, if not more than the people of Norway,” Ruggiero said. “A lot has changed with Agenda 2020 and I think right now it’s having open dialogue and the citizens understanding what the 2020 Agenda has done for the movement.”

    Ruggiero noted about the upcoming Winter YOG: “I think the big legacy is that they’re using all existing facilities from 1994.

    “All the people that had great memories from ’94 are going to feel it again. The brand of the Olympic Movement -- which is powerful -- will be felt with the Youth Olympics.”

    Lillehammer CEO Tomas Holmestad praised Ruggiero for her diligence and hard work with Games preparations over the past four years.

    “The YOG is still developing so we need to co-construct this together with the IOC and Angela has given her support since day one of this project,” Holmestad tells ATR.

    “Being a female hockey legend, she has also helped us to position the event to what it’s going to be – going beyond and creating tomorrow. It really fits with what Angela has done for female hockey.”

    Ruggiero was accompanied in Lillehammer by IOC athletes commission chairman Claudia Bokel. The two IOC members met with Norway’s Minister of Culture Linda Hofstad Helleland.

    During the Norwegian Sports Awards Gala, an annual event honoring the Nordic country’s top athletes while also building excitement for the YOG, Bokel tweeted: About a month to go, but I can't wait for @lillehammer2016.

    Many of the 1,600 volunteers, or change-makers, attended the televised Norwegian awards show. Lillehammer’s new theme song “Go
    Lilleammer 2016 CEO Tomas Holmestad and staff pose with YOG Flame (Lillehammer 2016)
    Beyond, Create Tomorrow” was performed with the Norwegian Youth dancing on stage.

    The second edition of the Winter Youth Games in Lillehammer, Feb. 12 to 21, will be comprised of 1,100 young skiers, skaters, sledders, hockey players and curlers. They’ll come from 70 countries and will range between the ages of 15 to18. Athletes will compete in all seven Winter Olympic sports, in addition to a host of new events. The Games will be held in Lillehammer, Hamar, Gjovik, Oyer and Oslo.

    Bokel Addresses Young Norwegian Sport Leaders

    Claudia Bokel spoke to approximately 60 young sport leaders who represent the nation’s clubs and sports federations.

    The IOC athletes commission chair discussed the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms during a meeting at the Scandic Hotel in Lillehammer.

    Bokel highlighted some of the 40 reforms, particularly focusing on recommendations to re-shape the bidding process that lead to Oslo dropping out of the 2024 race due to lack of government support.

    “Your country, my country, your neighbor country Sweden – we all thought it would be a good idea to bid for the Olympics,” said the German IOC member.

    “For several reasons - in my country in Hamburg it was a referendum where the people said no, I think it was the politicians that said no in others,” Bokel said.

    “We believed at the International Olympic Committee that we had to change something about the perception and from how we’ve done it in the past.

    “We believe we have a great product, we believe that the countries can benefit from it, but we felt we had to change to make the bidding process more of an invitation.

    “It has to fit to the sport, economic, social and environmental long-term planning of a city.”

    Written and reported in Lillehammer Brian Pinelli . For general comments or questions, click here.

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