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Stars come out to honour Nansen

A year of memorials honouring Norwegian explorer and statesman Fridtjof Nansen was reaching a climax on Monday as royals, celebrities and even the secretary general of the United Nations gathered in Oslo to celebrate what would have been Nansen’s 15oth birthday. The program for October 10 was to last from morning until late in the evening.

Fridtjof Nansen was one of Norway's most famous figures ever, and he was to be royally hailed on Monday, 150 years after his birth. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was acting as host for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who also was in Oslo to attend a conference on financing climate measures. Nansen’s role at the UN’s predecessor organization, the League of Nations, and as a humanitarian made it natural for Ban to also attend Norway’s jubilee for Nansen at Universitetsplassen in Oslo Monday evening.

“Nansen was a great humanitarian and worked along the same lines as the UN does today,” Christian Sømme of the jubilee’s organizing committee told newspaper Dagsavisen. He added, though, that the event was also aimed at attracting both children and adults to hail a man who was among Norway’s most famous international figures ever and who influenced generations after him in a wide range of fields.

That’s because Nansen was far more than a polar explorer, humanitarian and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was also a scientist, diplomat and athlete who skied over Greenland in 1888 and then traveled further north than anyone had before. He later launched into politics and diplomacy, championing Norway’s emergence as a sovereign nation in 1905 and the establishment of its modern monarchy. He then devoted himself to the League of Nations and was its High Commissioner for Refugees, working to help displaced persons after World War I and bring world attention to famine, poverty and the plight of refugees. That’s what won him the Peace Prize in 1922.

Monday’s celebration of Nansen was also attracting King Harald V, Stoltenberg, other dignitaries and performers including Sissel Kyrkjebø, Madcon and Tine Thing Helseth. The outdoor party was open to the public and due to start at 6:30pm.

Seminars and speeches
It was scheduled to follow a full day of seminars and speeches about Nansen inside the University of Oslo’s formal auditorium, the Aula, known for its murals by artist Edvard Munch. Olympic champion Vegard Ulvang was to discuss his upcoming expedition to the South Pole along with Stein P Aasheim, Polar Institute director Jan-Gunnar Winther and histsorian Harald Dag Jølle, who’s just released a biography of Nansen.

Other speakers from, for example, the Red Cross would talk about how Nansen influenced their work, while the Nobel Peace Center has been featuring an exhibit of photographs showing Nansen’s humanitarian work and photographer Espen Rasmussen’s work chronicling the refugee situation today. Other commemorative events were taking place from Bergen to Tromsø.

Fram Museum refurbished
Meanwhile, the museum in Oslo that houses Nansen’s famed polar vessel Fram was opening a new exhibition on its expeditions and one on Nansen’s life. “The entire museum has been refurbished for its re-opening on October 10,” Geir O Kløver, director of the Fram Museum on Oslo’s Bygdøy peninsula, told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend.

The museum will also be offering a series of lectures about Nansen and his life, while a new wing of the museum opening next autumn will feature fellow explorer Roald Amundsen’s expedition with the Gjøa through the Northwest Passage. This year’s polar celebrations are also marking the 100th anniversary of Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole.

Festivities on Monday will end with an official dinner at the Akershus Fortress and Castle in Oslo. More formal events will be held on December 14 to mark Amundsen’s successful South Pole expedition, made possible after he was allowed to use Nansen’s Fram.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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