Tomas Holmestad : « Lillehammer 2016 is an event by, with and for young people with a strong legacy »
The vision and the legacy of the 2nd Winter Youth Olympic Games with Tomas Holmestad, CEO of Lillehammer 2016.
What do you consider the legacy of the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994?
The 1994 Games was not only successful during the Games, but has also been a massive success after the Games, and has a strong, strong legacy. The Lillehammer 2016 YOG is solely built on the legacy of 1994, and without it we would never have been able to organize the YOG in Lillehammer. There are many legacies from Lillehammer 1994, but to name a few of them;
Lillehammer 1994 transformed the infrastructure of the city. Most importantly, the region got all of the venues necessary for a multisport event. These venues has been kept up to date, and with the latest refurbishments to the YOG, all of the venues used back in 1994 today have the necessary certificates from the International Federations for competitions at the highest level.
The venues mean that the regions (involved in YOG) have a unique position and competence to host major events all through the year. The most important of these will be the Youth Olympic Games in February, but this includes also the FIS Nordic World Cup in December every year, FIS Alpine World Cup in March every year, but also big events like the annual Luge World Cup or the FIS Alpine junior world champions last year. In addition, we have a huge number of smaller national and regional events. This has made the Lillehammer region into a centre for winter sport in Norway and almost in the world – a true legacy from the Games.
In addition, infrastructure from the Games has been used to transfer the city to a true student city. Before 1994, Lillehammer had around 500 students. Today, the city has 4800 students, mainly because the Main Media Centre was transformed into a university college, and also some of the housing used for athlete accommodation had a legacy as student apartments. With the YOG, another 360 student apartments have been built – further strengthening the legacy of 1994.
For the Olympic World, Lillehammer 1994 was a forerunner in creating sustainable games, and they really set a new benchmark in this area.. With the YOG, we have built on this legacy by being the first event in Norway to be certified with the new ISO 2012:1 standard for sustainable events.
So as you see, for Lillehammer 2016 we have built new chapters on the legacy of 1994 based on what I would name the four main pillars; Infrastructure, competence for major events, development as student city and creating sustainable games.
What is the vision of Lillehammer 2016? What is for you the meaning of Lillehammer 2016 slogan "Go Beyond, Create Tomorrow"?
The vision for the games is to “Go beyond and Create tomorrow”. I think everyone coming to Lillehammer should stop and think of these words and try to think what they could mean for them in their life and situation.
For me, the true meaning with this vision is to “Go beyond” what you usually see as the measure of success of an event. To measure the success is to see how we “Create tomorrow”. This means that I do not measure the success of the YOG in things like the ice quality or the number of spectators in the venues, but in the legacy we manage to create trough hosting these games. We measure our success in legacy and how we can impact and improve the region and Norwegian youth sports.
In order to succeed with this point, it is extremely important for us to involve youth in all stages of the project. This is why the average age, including myself, is 34 within the Organising Committee. We have young people in many leadership positions, also on the field of play. Of the 3000 volunteers, 57% are below 30, and over 800 under 20 years. With the Torch Tour, we will also have a national campaign to enhance young leadership in sport, and celebrate 19 young changemakers that also will participate in the Opening Ceremony. We have used youth to develop many of our core elements, like to vision, logo and mascot.
For me, the vision means that the Lillehammer 2016 will be an event by, with and for young people with a strong legacy.
Tell us about the iconic venues where the young athletes are going to compete!
The 2016 YOG are reusing the venues from the 1994 games, iconic venues with a great Olympic history.
Maybe the most iconic venue is Lysgaardsbakkene ski jumping venue, which was built for 1994 and is located only 300 meters from the newly build Youth Olympic Village. The ski jump venue has an iconic architecture, and can be spotted from all around the city. As in 1994, this venue will also be the venue for the Opening Ceremony.
In Hamar, speed skating athletes will compete in the famous Viking Ship. Not only is it the fastest ice oval placed at low altitude, but it is also one of the most iconic buildings in Norway. Lying by Lake Mjøsa, it looks like an upside-down ship placed on the shore for the night.
In Gjøvik, short track athletes will compete in the biggest mountain cavern in the world built for public usage. When you enter into the venue, you walk some hundred meters into the heart of the mountain, where you can appreciate the most fantastic venue. Just to be there is an experience.
Alpine and freestyle athletes will compete in Hafjell, one of Norways best ski resorts, being built to the ‘94 Games, but now being renovated for the YOG. The venue is known for it’s great snow conditions and great slopes.
And what about the 2016 sports programme?
The sport programme will welcome some new and exciting formats. The first medal event of the Games will be the cross country cross, an innovation in the national sport of Norway. We also look forward to hosting the skills challenge in ice hockey, which was a massive success in Innsbruck 2012. The monobob, having its Olympic birth in Lillehammer, is another innovation we look very much forward to seeing in practice. For me personally, I also believe that the competitions with mixed NOCs is an important part of the total YOG experience. This put focus not only on performance but also on cultural exchange and education, for me these are important parts of the YOG.
Tell us about the final preparations before the event !
We are now really looking forward to welcoming the world to Norway and Lillehammer. A small, but very dedicated and competent team has been working very hard to prepare for the Games, and I am very confident with our preparations. All main activities are on schedule. Just after Christmas, we will started to move into our Main Operating Centre, and on the 9th of January we kicked off the Torch Tour around Norway. That same day, we also gathered all of our volunteers to educate them on the YOG and look forward to the games.
What is your message to the young athletes who will gather in Lillehammer in February ?
Take some moments to stop and think of how lucky you are to get this opportunity. It will be an awesome experience, which I think you will remember for the rest of the life.
Do also take some moments to understand that the YOG is not the destination of your carreer, but a part of the travel towards that destination. This means that the most important thing will not be the result that you achieve in the competition, but the learnings you collect on the way. Please ensure you put aside sufficient time to participate in the Learn&Share activities, where you can pick up a lot of learnings that would be vital for your future performance. Do also ensure you take some time to go to the Sjoggfest, the cultural festival within the games, which will be the most extensive youth festival ever held in Norway, with over 200 performances during the 10 days. Make some new friendships that will last for a lifetime, during this experience..
What are the 2016 YOG are doing for Lillehammer and Norway? What will be the legacy of the 2016 YOG?
We have made 5 clear legacy commitments, which is how we measure the success of the Games:
We will contribute to a physical legacy of new infrastructure and venues: this includes 360 new student apartments (built with support of the IOC), a new curling hall and ice rink, an upgrade of Hafjell, the Alpine venue, ski jump hill profile update of Lysgaardsbakken, the ski jumping venue and a lot of smaller updates of the other venues, including new equipment. Please note that all of these constructions are made and designed for legacy usage, e.g. the curling hall could have been bigger for the Games, but it was built for post-Games usage.
We will make a difference in the life of the participating athletes: this especially highlights the importance of the Sjoggfest and the Learn & Share activities.
We will be a major contributor to a 10 year plan for the development of youth sports in Norway; The Norwegian NOC has made a 10 year youth plan to enhance youth sports around the YOG. This includes recruiting new athletes, new volunteers, new coaches and new leaders. We are contributing in many aspects, especially with our focus on youth leadership through the torch tour and with our volunteer programme, but also with a long series of activities towards schools to enhance the joy of physical activities – this also include a programme where more than 21000 school kids will visit the YOG for one day.
We will create a new competence and enthusiasm in the region: This includes involving youth in everything we do in order to create new leaders, but also the fact that we are working very closely with several local partners, e..g the hospital and the bus company, to ensure that they use this event as a learning opportunity to develop their own skills. This also ensures that the skills acquired through hosting the YOG is staying in the region after the Games.
We will contribute to the creation of a Lillehammer Olympic Legacy Center: After the Games, the activities will be continued in a legacy centre, were young people can come to Lillehammer to be educated and train for their future careers.