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  • Lillehammer Residents Ready for the Youth Olympic Games


    (ATR) As visitors arrive in relatively warm, icy conditions for the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games, veterans of the 1994 Olympics still shiver recalling how cold it was then.
    Ski jump venue in Lillehammer (ATR)

    “My daughter was a forerunner for the cross country and when she left at 7 in the morning it was minus-24 degrees,” Lillehammer native Liv Møllerløkken tells Around the Rings. “I told her, ‘There is not going to be anything today.’ But during the morning, it got warmer and it was fantastic.”

    On Tuesday, the temperature in Lillehammer was 2 degrees Celsius/36 Fahrenheit and sidewalks and streets were full of gravel that did not quite cover all of the ice.

    However, the forecast says it will get down to minus-11 Celsius/12 Fahrenheit on Friday night, when the Opening Ceremony will be held.

    Lillehammer native Liv Møllerløkken (ATR)
    Møllerløkken is a volunteer in accreditation for the YOG, but was simply a spectator in 1994, attending nearly all the cross country, some ski jumping, and speedskating in Hamar. She was thrilled to see Norwegian star Johann Olav Koss win the 5,000, one of his three gold medals. However, she did not see any part of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan figure skating scandal which enthralled U.S. television viewers and brought some of the highest ratings in Olympic history.

    Møllerløkken hopes to attend as many YOG events as she can, especially since admission is free for everything except the Opening Ceremony.

    “This is big for Lillehammer,” she says, “but it is different from the Olympic Games because the athletes are doing more than just competing, they are learning and sharing. And that’s very important.”

    Her hometown of 26,000 people is getting caught up in the spirit. “Now they are excited about it,” Møllerløkken says, “but at first I do not know if everyone understood what it meant.”

    She believes the capital of Oslo made a mistake by withdrawing from the race for the 2022 Winter Games. “They didn’t know what they were doing,” Møllerløkken says. “Lillehammer wanted it for 2026. I think Lillehammer is the place. It has everything; we have cross country, jumping, the slalom.”

    Venues from 1994 have seen busy since the Olympic Games and many will be used for the YOG.

    A third generation from Møllerløkken’s family will see what the Olympic Movement is all about. Møllerløkken’s granddaughter will come to Lillehammer with her school for a Dream Day, a YOG initiative where students see both culture and competition.

    More 1994 Memories

    Anders Lyngstad (ATR)
    Anders Lyngstad, also remembers the bitter cold from the Lillehammer Winter Games, while retaining fond memories of the warmth of the spectators.

    Lyngstad, who was hired by the organizing committee to check radio equipment for the YOG -- just as he did in 1994 – enjoyed the atmosphere 22 years ago.

    “I liked all the people out in the woods, the spectators for cross country,” says Lyngstad, who is from Bergen on the Norwegian coast. “Also there were so many people on the Storgata (the main shopping street). All the stores in the next street were empty.”

    Spectators should be more spread out this time. The Omega Countdown Clock is in the Lilletorget city centre, while Samsung has set one of its Galaxy Studios on the Kirkegata in front of the imposing Hvelvet Restaurant.

    Banners line the streets and there are numerous posters of the mascot Sjogg, a mixture of a lynx and a fantasy animal. Sjogg is also the local word for snow, which is much desired before the Games commence.

    The 3,000 volunteers proudly wear their blue jackets and green pants, whose snow crystal pattern is reminiscent of the 1994 Look of the Games. The younger volunteers – and every one of the athletes ages 15 to 18 -- were not alive when the Games last came to Norway.

    Television Drama

    Prior to the Youth Olympic Games, the most recent look at Lillehammer by many television viewers was the series “Lilyhammer” which ran from 2012 to 2014.

    A New York mobster with memories of the 1994 Games decided the Norwegian city was the perfect place to hide out after testifying against his former associates. The series starred Steven Van Zandt, also known for “The Sopranos” and playing guitar with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

    Reported by Karen Rosen in Lillehammer

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