Neither snow nor sleet nor a sudden (and fortunately short) breakdown of Oslo’s public transit metro line would ruin the start of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships (Ski-VM) in the Norwegian capital. The royal family was among those set to be out in force at opening ceremonies Wednesday evening.
King Harald, Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit and the king’s sister, Princess Astrid, were on the program for the opening ceremonies due to begin at 6pm at Universitetsplassen downtown. Also on the guest list were 350 mayors from all over the country and several top politicians including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Organizers of the international sporting event, due to attract thousands to Oslo over the next two weeks, woke up Wednesday morning to a light snowfall and predictions of warmer, wetter and foggy weather over the next few days. That wasn’t good news, nor were reports that a critical metro line needed to transport hundreds of thousands back and forth from town to the Ski-VM arenas had broken down.
A train on Oslo’s T-bane metro line suffered technical problems at the Ensjø station on Oslo’s east side early Wednesday morning. Smoke billowed from the train and entered the tunnel at Helfyr, and forced T-bane personnel to cut power to most all traffic on eastbound lines to Ellingsrud and Mortensrud.
Crews were able to quickly restore power after what a T-bane spokesman called “a little accident” and service resumed, albeit with some delays. It wasn’t the best start for the opening day of Ski-VM, organizers of which are relying on the T-bane’s Frognerseter line to get people to and from events. There is virtually no parking available at the arenas themselves and bus service is viewed as a last-ditch alternative, with only one road leading in and out of the Holmenkollen area where all competition will be held.
“We have a major arrangement looming before us,” T-bane spokesman Bjørn Rydmark told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), stressing that he thinks the transport lines are well-staffed and in the best shape possible to handle crowds despite Wednesday morning’s incident.
Parade, music and VIPs
The evening’s opening ceremonies didn’t need to rely so heavily on the metro, and spectators could expect a parade with flags of all nations participating, music and VIPs. Among then was Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who said he was looking forward for Ski-VM to begin.
“I’ll be attending many of the events,” he told newpaper Aftenposten. “We should be proud of hosting a new Ski-VM in Oslo and fantastic new facilities.” He said he’d be showing them off to other dignitaries, including his Swedish counterpart Fredrik Reinfeldt, even though the state has contributed only a relatively small amount of their funding. The City of Oslo has covered the vast majority of the NOK 2.4 billion (USD 400 million) now estimated to have been invested in the new skiing arenas.
King Harald and Queen Sonja, meanwhile, were expected to make frequent appearances throughout the world championships, and would be hosting other royal guests as well. King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden would be on hand for skiing and ski jumping events on March 5 and 6 at Holmenkollen and Queen Margrethe of Denmark was expected to show up as well.
For program and other practical information about Ski-VM 2011, click here. (external link)