Monday, March 15, 2010

A new icon for Norwegian winter sports

OSLO. A young Belgian architect, working in Denmark, won the honour of designing the most important icon of Norwegian winter sports – the ski jump at Holmenkollen in Oslo.
The result went on full display for the first time this past weekend, when Oslo held the dress rehearsal for next year's World Championships at Holmenkollen, the classic winter sports venue overlooking the Norwegian capital. “Awesome” was a frequently heard comment from ski jumpers and on-lookers, as they admired the design by Julien de Smedt and his JDS Architects. The new Holmenkollen Beacon, as the ski jump is called, strives towards the sky in a daring structure that takes the sport to a new era.
When the complex is fully finished, a beam of light at night will extend the visual impression of the structure even further towards the sky. From Oslo’s city center, the Holmenkollen ski jump can be seen on the not too distant mountain, standing as a symbol for the winter sports that Norwegians hold so close to their hearts.
The World Championship trial run this past weekend was a great success, even though the new Holmenkollen (with venues for cross country skiing and biathlon next to the ski jump) is not completely finished yet.
The official opening of the ski jump on Saturday was, of course, conducted by His Majesty Harald V, Norway’s winter sports loving king.
I took the old train up to Holmenkollen on Saturday to spend a magnificent day among tens of thousands of Norwegians, most of them carrying flags and dressed in traditional ski wear as they came to pay tribute to the returning Norwegian heroes from the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The fans got all they wished for as the great cross country skier Marit Bjørgen (winner of five medals in Vancouver, including three gold medals) led the Norwegian women to a 1-2-3-sweep in the opening 30 km-race.
To underline the importance Norwegians put into winter sport, some 6,000 fans spent the night in cold tents in the Holmenkollen forest just to get a good spot along the course.
Anyone who would like to experience winter sports in a classic venue should head for Oslo next year, when the World Championships are held in Holmenkollen February 26 to March 6.
The Winter Olympics were held here in 1952, and Oslo markets itself as the World’s Winter Capital.
It’s hard to argue with that. There are few major cities in the world where you will see people dressed in ski gear and carrying their skies on public transportation, heading for a day of outdoor fun in Holmenkollen and beyond.
“The City of Oslo wants it to be the skiing capital of the world, with the best after-ski in the world right downtown”, says Bård Folke Fredriksen, commissioner for urban development, when I meet him for an interview in Oslo’s City Hall.
There has been cost overrun in the development of new Holmenkollen, and the word “scandal” has been used in Norwegian press. The project was budgeted at 1.8 billion Norwegian Kroner (300 million US Dollars, 217 million Euros).
“It is too bad that it became more expensive than planned. But this is something that had to been done for Holmenkollen, and now we have a fantastic venue. Next year’s World Championships will be a great festival”, promises Bård Folke Fredriksen.
The new Holmenkollen can also be seen as a beacon leading the way for the new Oslo under development along the shoreline of the Oslo Fjord.
I went to the Norwegian capital to have a look at the huge transformation of the city that is taking place. There will be several reports in the blog on that later on this and next week.

The new icon for Norwegian winter sports; the ski jump at Holmenkollen.

The local train will take you right up to Holmenkollen.

The top of the ski jump will hold a platform with a great view of Oslo.