Historic Nobel visit comes to an end

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New Nobel Laureate Barack Obama and US First Lady Michelle Obama left Oslo Friday morning after just a brief exchange of farewells with the leaders of the Nobel Institute outside Air Force One. The city was returning to normal after the biggest security operation the Norwegian capital had ever seen.

Work crews were already dismantling security fences and removing barricades downtown, and the drone of helicopters abated after the Obamas’ massive motorcade left downtown. Air Force One took off just before 11am.

At the foot of the president’s jet stood Thorbjørn Jagland (photo, at left) , chairman of the Norwegian Committee, and the committee’s secretary Geir Lundestad, to bid farewell to one of the most memorable and controversial winners of the Nobel Peace Prize ever.”It’s all been just fantastic,” Jagland told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), claiming that Obama’s acceptance of the prize marked perhaps “the greatest moment” in Nobel history.

He continued to defend the awarding of the prize to Obama, saying that “it sent a message to the world that we need political leadership” that “will take us in the right direction.”

Both Jagland and Lundestad said that Obama was grateful, in good humour and even “overwhelmed” by the prize and the ceremony surrounding it.

READ OBAMA’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH HERE (external link).They had reason to believe Obama had enjoyed his 27 hours in Oslo, during which the US President had claimed that Norway “punches above its weight.” Obama told Norwegian reporters he was using the boxing term to relate his view that such a small country was playing an important role in world affairs.

Jagland also has viewed the prize as a way for the Nobel Committee to give Obama some support for his work. The money that comes with the Nobel Peace Prize, SEK 10 million, will reportedly be donated to charity.

Obama is due to return to Scandinavia next week, to take part in final meetings at the UN climate conference now going on in Copenhagen.

He may also return to Oslo someday. As a Nobel Laureate, he’ll be invited to future Peace Prize ceremonies.