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Building for the future – student accommodation a key legacy from YOG 2016

Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Village IOC/Ubald Rutar
23 Feb 2017
Lillehammer 2016, Olympic News, YOG

Petter Syverud oversaw the planning and construction of the Lillehammer 2016 Athletes Village that became much-needed student accommodation for the Lillehammer University College. Given his extensive experience in the organising committee for the Olympic Winter Games 1994 in Lillehammer, he provides an invaluable insight into what genuinely works when it comes to Olympic Games legacy projects, and how Lillehammer has managed to keep getting it right.  

Having had a front-row seat to witness just how important the legacy aspect of the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games proved to be, Petter Syverud had the issue at the forefront of his mind ahead of the YOG 2016. He sees long-term legacy projects as vital and absolutely necessary parts of any Olympic Games. Syverud’s philosophy is simple – for the Games to be a benefit to a city, the legacy plans must be significant. The Lillehammer resident is particularly pleased with how the YOG 2016 embraced this concept. Syverud was the project manager for the construction of the YOG 2016 Athletes Village. The complex was largely funded by the International Olympic Committee and remains as student accommodation, housing 360 young minds who will one-day hopefully make their mark on Lillehammer and beyond.   

“It was during the bid period we discussed what kind of concept we should have for the accommodation of athletes in Lillehammer,” Syverud said. “We figured that a Youth Olympic Games should add something to society and the development of young people. Lillehammer also needed new student housing for increasing the number of students in the city. We needed a contribution from the IOC to make this possible and they contributed a significant amount of money. It’s really important - the students, the Lillehammer University College, the inhabitants of the town, they are all pleased that we have some permanent benefits after the Games. Right beside the student village we have a cross country ski track in winter and in summer it’s a jogging course. It’s a very good site for activities in sports and it’s a very popular place to stay.”

When it comes to legacy, Syverud’s experience as President of Project Control for the Lillehammer 1994 Games ensures he looks beyond the obvious and sees what genuinely makes a long term difference. What is abundantly clear is that Lillehammer got it right first time around, and repeated the feat 22 years later. “The YOG was very good for Lillehammer,” said Syverud, who was in control of the budget and responsible for reporting to the city board and culture department within the 1994 organising committee. 

“The Olympic Games have been so very important for this region. I can’t really imagine what Lillehammer would be like today without the Games in 1994. Whether it’s the YOG or the Olympic Games, if you don’t have focus on the legacy you will probably build venues and accommodation of the wrong size for post-Games use and you will lose so much support if you do it in the wrong way. The legacy issue should be there from day one when you start planning Games. From the 1994 Games we spread the venues and the competitions over five municipalities. That was to give those five places venues sized according to the population in each. The ice rinks were the big venues and were built in three different places in 1994. For the YOG we used the same venues.”

Lillehammer 2017 Youth Olympic Village IOC/Ian Jones

“In 1994 we didn’t build any unnecessary sport venue, any venue was necessary for the people in each of these municipalities. In Lillehammer we have even built two more ice rinks since 1994 to keep up with the need that athletes have in this town. We had temporary buildings in 1994 for the media and some guests, and they were moved to other parts of Norway after the Games.” Also, the Main Media Centre built for the Olympic Winter Games 1994 is now part of the Lillehammer University College. Syverud details a slick and effective legacy plan that will provide significant benefits for the people of Lillehammer and Norway in general. The good news is they are willing to share the love, as Syverud outlined a project in the pipeline that is part of the Lillehammer Legacy Centre and could benefit aspiring athletes from all over. 

Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Village IOC/Ian Jones

The Lillehammer Legacy Center is essentially funded via the release of a Lillehammer 2016 State guarantee as well as via a Games’ financial surplus. As the Legacy Centre’s facilities and expertise will benefit young athletes and coaches from other nations, the IOC has also decided to provide a financial contribution to support the Centre’s activities. “If there are countries that would like to do stuff in winter sports but do not have the facilities, or don’t have the winter like here, we can welcome the young people to Lillehammer, they can stay here and we can maybe develop programmes for training or young coaches in winter sports,” Syverud added. “They can go back to those countries and be key people in the development of sports there and also be an inspiration for young athletes in their own country.”

As with so much of Lillehammer 2016, the legacy side of the Games was perfectly pitched. With such innovative and practical thinking, it’s little wonder the city is one of the world’s few to have hosted two Olympic events. 

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