To mark the 25th anniversary of the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994, the Norwegian town hosted celebrations packed with Olympic-themed events, which gave those old enough to remember the Games a chance to relive them, and the younger ones an insight into the time when their town was at the centre of the sporting world.
The 1994 Olympic Games transformed Norway into a winter sports powerhouse, and their spirit is still very much alive today,” said Marie Sallois, Director for Corporate Development, Brand and Sustainability at the IOC. “Beyond the impressive numbers of medals won by Norwegian athletes at Winter Olympic Games, and the Olympic infrastructure that is being used to this day, the 1994 Games triggered strong, positive emotions. These emotions were the driving force behind the anniversary celebrations, which attracted people of all ages, with the Queen and King of Norway celebrating alongside athletes and families.”
“The anniversary focused on the memories of the Lillehammer’94 Games, which live so strong in our minds, in particular the athletes – the Olympic and Paralympic medal winners who made us so proud,” said Kristin Kloster Aasen, an IOC Member and Vice-President of the Norwegian NOC, who was among the organisers of the anniversary events. “The highlight was how around 12,000 people gathered at Lysgårdsbakken ski jump to relive the 1994 Games on a wide screen with our Olympic and Paralympic heroes present, before carrying torches back to the centre of Lillehammer.”
Future of the Games
The programme kicked off on 12 February with the relighting of the Olympic cauldron at the iconic Lysgårdsbakkene ski jump, which was built for Lillehammer 1994. Fittingly, the honour of lighting the cauldron went to a woman who was born at the time of the 1994 Opening Ceremony.
A number of Olympians were on hand to make the events extra special. These included Stine Lise Hattestad Bratsberg (moguls), Bjørn Dæhlie (cross country skier), Espen Bredesen (ski jumper), Johann Olav Koss (speed skater) and Cato Zahl Pedersen (Paralympic Alpine skier).
Three days later, Lillehammer’s Olympic Museum hosted a conference which explored the future of the Olympic Games and looked back at the legacy left behind by the 1994 Winter Games. Speakers at the conference included Gerhard Heiberg, President of the Lillehammer Olympic Organising Committee and an IOC Honorary Member, Kristin Kloster Aasen, Gilbert Felli, former IOC Olympic Games Executive Director, and Stine Lise Hattestad, who won a moguls gold for Norway in 1994. They flagged the role played by the IOC and other stakeholders in creating what was a watershed event for the social and economic development of Lillehammer, and more generally the development of Norwegian sporting life.
Event fit for a king and queen
On 16 February, Lillehammer’s Søndre Park staged a Mini-Olympics, where kids of all ages were given the opportunity to take part in a variety of sporting challenges, including sledding, ice skating, ice hockey, skiing and biathlon.
Putting in a special appearance were the King and Queen of Norway, who took time to greet the public and meet with a group of Chinese athletes who are currently training in Lillehammer, as well as athletes, officials and staff from the 1994 Winter Games Organising Committee.
Back at Lysgårdsbakkene, a crowd of around 12,000 people gathered for a programme of live music, including a performance by the world-renowned trumpet player Ole Edvard Antonsen, and a rendition of a song written for 1994 Winter Games by local kids.
Footage from Lillehammer 1994 was projected onto the giant screen, while the Olympic cauldron was once again relit, this time by Stine Lise Hattestad.
Bringing the evening to a close was a firework display, followed by a torch parade back down the hill into the town centre.
The celebrations concluded on 17 February with the Annual Children’s Winter Day at Lillehammer’s open-air museum, where there were more sporting events for local kids and their families to enjoy.
“You could feel people’s enthusiasm,” said IOC Legacy Manager Aurélie Lemouzy, who attended the event. “With all those wearing 1994 clothing, dancing to the OL-Floka song, the artists on stage and the impressive Olympic ski jump in the background... there was celebration in the air!”