After years of planning, arguing, celebrations and budget scandals, the new Holmenkollen Ski Jump was set to receive thousands of sports fans and athletes over the weekend. Even the weather seemed ready to cooperate, and the royals would be out in force.
The action was kicking off Saturday with Nordic skiing competition that included a 30-kilometer race for women and a 50-kilometer race for men, all part of the World Championship preliminaries called Prøve-VM Holmenkollen. It’s the official run-up to next year’s Nordic World Championships which Oslo will host at Holmenkollen.
Olympic gold medal winners Marit Bjørgen, fresh from her latest victory in a World Cup sprint in Drammen, and Petter Northug were participating. Included among the spectators: King Harald. Several members of the royal family would be on hand Sunday as well for the gala grand opening of the ski jump, including the king, Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon, Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus.
More than 370 athletes from 24 nations were taking part at Holmenkollen. The action was set to climax Sunday afternoon with the first full round of ski jumping off the new structure that has cost Oslo taxpayers nearly NOK 2 billion.
(Click here to see a photo series of the old ski jump, and the new Holmenkollen emerging.)
The ski jump was inaugurated last week, amidst much controversy when Anette Sagen got cheated out of being the first high-profile ski jumper to soar off Oslo’s new landmark. That sparked widespread outrage and this week, Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang demanded that women be allowed to jump in next year’s World Championships.
“I think there’s clear discrimination lying at the bottom of all this,” Stang told newspaper Aftenposten earlier this week. “In Oslo, everyone should be treated equally regardless of sex, colour or religion, and we can’t accept women being prevented from jumping. Especially not off a ski jump financed by the city.”
Backed by all seven group leaders within the Oslo City Council, Stang has sent a letter to the president of the International Ski Federation (FIS), Gian Franco Kasper, where he warns them not to provoke the Norwegian people. FIS has decreed that women can only jump off the smaller Midtstubakken.
FIS officials confirmed receipt of the letter, but said they wouldn’t take a position on the issue until next week.
This weekend’s action at Holmenkollen marks the start of a series of events throughout the month. Stang and other city officials will officially open the new biathlon center adjacent to the ski jump on Tuesday. World Cup biathlon competition will be held starting March 20.