Royals in place as ‘OL’ begins

UPDATED: Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit are in London this weekend to lead the cheering sections for Norwegian athletes as the Summer Olympics gets underway. Norway has a team of 64 local sports stars taking part in what the Norwegians simply call “OL,” but it’s unclear whether any of them will wind up as international stars as well.

The Summer Olympics in London got off to a spectacular start on Friday night, and Norway won its first medal on Saturday. PHOTO: London 2012

Norway has a much better track record of performing well at the Winter Olympics than at the summer games, but hopes are high for the Norwegian swimmers, cyclists, handball players, rowers and other athletes, not least javelin star Andreas Thorkildsen and Tour de France hero Edvald Boasson Hagen.

The young royals attended a reception with other invited royal guests at Buckingham Palace on Friday, along with the Opening Ceremonies Friday night, which were to air nationwide in Norway at 10pm Friday on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Kayak paddler Mira Verås Larsen, age 25 was chosen this week to carry the Norwegian flag at the ceremonies. Her great-grandfather Osvald Falch helped secure Norway’s first Olympic gold medal in gymnastics at the Olympics in Athens in 1906.

On Saturday, reported newspaper Aftenposten, the crown prince and princess would have lunch with Norwegian athletes at Olympic Park and attend swimming and cycling competitions. They were on hand to see Norway win its first medal, when cyclist Alexander Kristoff took the bronze in the Men’s Road Race. In the evening, they’d be cheering from the stands when watching Norway play against France in handball.

Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit often see better Norwegian results at winter sports competition, like here at the Nordic skiing world championships last year, but they'll be cheering on Norwegian athletes at the Summer Olympics that get underway in London this weekend. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

On Sunday the royals will travel to Windsor and Eton to watch Norwegian hopefuls in rowing competition, followed either by sand volleyball or badminton. On Sunday night they’d hoped to be cheering Norwegian swimmer Ingvild Snildal again, but she failed to make the finals, finishing a disappointing 7th on Saturday.

On Monday they’ll head for Greenwich to watch shooting competition before winding up their Olympic presence with lunch at the Norwegian Seaman’s Church back in London.

The Olympics run until August 12, leaving track and field athletes including Thorkildsen to compete without their own royals present. They were expected to still do their best, with Thorkildsen, swimmer Sara Nordenstam and runner Jaysuma Saidy Ndure among the medal hopefuls.

Norway lost its greatest medal hope for the Olympics this year when champion swimmer Alexander Dale Oen died of a heart attack last spring. His parents have made the trip to London anyway, where Oen is being remembered not just by his Norwegian teammates but also by international swimming stars who have paid tribute to him at press conferences this week and in other event warm-ups. Swimmer Snildal has said that the best way she can pay tribute to Oen is simply by swimming as fast as she can this weekend.

Norway’s star cyclist Thor Hushovd, who won the world championship just last year, isn’t taking part in the Olympics because of illness. His younger colleague Edvald Boasson Hagen, though, may grab more glory himself when he starts pedaling on Saturday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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