Police tackle chaos at Holmenkollen

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Tens of thousands of winter sports fans are expected to head up to the Holmenkollen Ski Festival in Oslo this weekend, not least to see many of the new skiing- and ski-jumping World Champions in action. Organizers, police and transport officials aim to avoid the chaos that erupted at least year’s so-called “Skifest,” through better crowd control and enforcement of rules against public drunkenness.

Organizers of the annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival don’t want a repeat of last year, when thousands of sports fans faced chaos upon leaving the days’ events. PHOTO: Holmenkollen Ski Festival

Last year’s ski festival ended in what police described as “total chaos,” with at least eight people injured, one of them seriously, after intoxicated members of the public caused trouble for everyone. The Ski Festival is supposed to be a “people’s party,” organizers and police now stress, not a wild drinking party.

“This is an event for the whole family, and then no one should be drinking heavily,” Martin Strand of the Oslo Police, told newspaper Aftenposten. “It won’t be ‘cool’ to be drunk at Holmenkollen this year.”

Spectators at last year’s men’s 50-kilometer race got out of hand, with unruly fans causing trouble and accidents. Several tore down fences and traipsed through private gardens when the Ski Festival was over and thousands of people descended on the metro line at the same time.

Steps have since been taken to ward off such chaos this year. New exit routes have been cleared of snow this year, and the men’s 50K race has been moved from mid-afternoon to 10am Saturday morning. The theory is that not as many spectators will be inclined to drink along the sidelines that early in the day.

There will be far more frequent metro train service up here to the large station at Holmenkollen, with its views over the city and fjord. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Spectators or passengers on the metro line serving Holmenkollen who are visibly drunk will be removed from metro trains, the stadium or from where they’re standing along the race course. Both police and security guards will have what Aftenposten called “massive presence” at Holmenkollen this weekend.

Efforts will also be made to keep lines moving with more frequent metro service. Many trains were halted last year by spectators who grew impatient while waiting in line and started wandering along the tracks. Trains will run every five minutes between Holmenkollen and Majorstuen this year to help handle the crowds, and they’ll turn around at Holmenkollen without continuing on to the end of the line at Frognerseteren.

Oslo’s Holmenkollen ski jumping competitions began in the 1890s and have expanded greatly in recent years, with World Cup cross-country skiing, combined competition and, most recently, Raw Air jumping. In addition to the men’s 50K race on Saturday, the world’s top women skiers will be racing in a 30K on Sunday. There will be ski jumping for both men and women, the latter featuring Norway’s new World Champion Maren Lundby.

Norwegian skiers and ski jumpers won a total of 25 medals at the recent Nordic World Ski Championships, with comeback queen Therese Johaug set to race again on home turf Sunday, before cheering fans. Other skiing stars taking part include Johannes Høsflot Klæbo and Martin Johnsrud Sundby. Organizers say the festival has attracted 350 athletes from  30 countries this year. It will end with men’s ski jumping Sunday afternoon.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund