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Monday, June 17, 2024

Oslo braced for ‘Biebermania’

Canadian singer and teen idol Justin Bieber was heading to Oslo this week for three concerts that have sold around 66,000 tickets and won massive publicity in Norwegian media. Police have been working for months to be better prepared to handle the tens of thousands of screaming young Bieber fans than they were the last time the singer came to Norway.

Canadian pop idol Justin Bieber is in the midst of a European concert tour that's coming to Oslo and setting off massive publicity and preparations. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons
Canadian pop idol Justin Bieber is in the midst of a European concert tour that’s coming to Oslo and setting off massive publicity and preparations. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

That appearance sparked chaos in and around downtown Oslo last spring, and organizers got lots of criticism. Many called the mass pandemonium “frightening,” not least after 88 persons were injured in the crowds.

Now the organizers of the three concerts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Telenor Arena at Fornebu, west of Oslo, have mounted security, transportation and communication efforts billed as “the best preparations for a concert event ever held on Norwegian soil.” As many as 1,000 police and private security guards plus health care workers and Red Cross volunteers will be on hand to control crowds both at Fornebu, at major public transportation hubs and downtown.

Doors open at 6:30pm on Tuesday for the first concert at Telenor Arena, with special shuttle-bus service from downtown starting as early as noon for those eager to be first in line. Police have been warning fans not to come too early, though, for fear they’ll be cold and exhausted long before the concert even begins. It remained to be seen how successful parents will be at controlling their offspring’s movements, however, or whether school officials will be able to keep them in class. Expectations were high that schools all over the country would be seeing a high absentee rate on concert days.

The fans are traveling to Oslo from around the country, with special bus transport also offered from several cities. Parents driving their Bieber-smitten children to Fornebu for the concerts were urged to park in Asker, at Sandvika or Oslo, and take public transportation from there, since no parking would be allowed around the concert arena.

Ambitions were high when Telenor Arena opened in 2009. Since then, it's suffered major challenges. PHOTO: Telenor
The area around the Telenor Arena west of Oslo is usually quiet, but it won’t be this week when tens of thousands of Justin Bieber fans descend on it for his three sold-out concerts. The weather is also much worse than when this photo was taken, with concert-goers having to brave chilly rain as they stand in line for hours before doors open. PHOTO: Telenor

The area around Telenor Arena was under tight control, with many roads blocked off and posing commuting challenges for the thousands of non-Bieber fans working, for example, at the large companies with offices at Fornebu such as Telenor, Statoil and Aker Solutions. Many people also live on Fornebu, or on the adjacent island of Snarøya, and they all faced major traffic congestion on concert days.

Both Telenor and NetCom, two of Norway’s major mobile telephone providers, have been working to boost capacity to handle all the calls and text messages expected before, during and after Bieber’s concerts. It remained impossible to guarantee that Bieber fans would be able to communicate with their parents, for example, so organizers also urged fans to agree on meeting places for rides home, for example, well in advance.

As some fans started flocking around Oslo’s Grand Hotel over the weekend, after rumours that Bieber would be staying there and possibly arriving earlier than Tuesday, there were some voices of disapproval in the crowd. One 14-year-old girl wrote a column in newspaper Aftenposten last week that she was “frustrated” by all the hype and thinks it’s “absurd” that so many of her contemporaries planned to cut classes and jeopardize important pre-exam studies because of “hysteria” over Bieber. “He’s no god, he’s just an ordinary boy with some talent,” she wrote.

Others clearly disagree. One newspaper commentator, in Dagsavisen, also claimed that Bieber has more fans in Norway, on a per capita basis, than in any other country. They weren’t about to miss his appearances in Norway this week.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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