No Norway Cup in Oslo. No “Festspillene” in Bergen. No “Øyafestivalen,” billed as one of the most highly acclaimed musical gatherings in Northern Europe. All festivals, sporting and other events drawing more than 500 people will continue to be halted in Norway at least until September 1, ruining summer for lots of music and sports fans alike.
“This is an incredibly sad day both for us, the performers, the public, the volunteers, our partners and everyone who looked forward to a fantastic festival week,” stated Tonje Kaada, leader of the annual and wildly popular Øyafestivalen in Oslo, in a press release after the government finally confirmed over the weekend that no large gatherings of people in one place can be allowed yet.
“We have to admit that the ban didn’t come as a surprise,” Kaada wrote, adding that festival organizers support the authorities’ decision that safety and health “must come first.”
Others didn’t take the news quite as well, noting that both performers and organizers will suffer huge financial losses. Tone Østerdal, head of the Norwegian concert arrangers’ association (Norsk konsertarrangører), was already calling for financial compensation from the state, even though organizers can now enforce the force majeure portions of contracts that nullifies them if events beyond their control occur. Performers no longer are obligated to perform, and organizers don’t have to pay them.
Struggling to survive
There are lots of other costs involved, however, and Østerdal told newspaper Aftenposten that thinks the state (through the government ministry in charge or sports and culture) must make sure the branch survives the Corona crisis.
Organizers of small events were still waiting for details about whether they’ll be allowed to carry on with at least some concerts in small venues. They include the venerable Molde Jazzfestival, that still hopes to put on a scaled-down version at its smallest locations around the fjord city of Molde in Romsadal.
Many had already cancelled before Culture Minister Abid Raja finally, on Saturday, answered increasingly heated calls for a decision. They included Kongsberg Jazz, OverOslo and the large Oslo Sommertid festival that was supposed to feature Taylor Swift among other major artists. It’s now clear, however, that there will be no Festspillene (Bergen International Festival) in May, no Stavernfestivalen, Vinjerock or Parkfestivalen in Bodø. Nor many others.
Norway Cup at the end of July has been cancelled as well, for the first time since its founding in the 1970s. It’s billed as the largest football tournament in the world, attracting around 30,000 children and youth from a long list of countries, many of whom are flown to Oslo with the help of foreign aid and humanitarian funding. The Bækkelaget Sports Club that arranges it in Oslo faces a loss of around NOK 16 million (USD 1.6 million) that was supposed to be passed on to other sports clubs and volunteer organizations that help mount it.
Now there will be a lot less month to conduct sports programs for children and youth in Oslo as well, according to Norway Cup’s secretary general Pål Trælvik. He’s hoping for emergency funding from the state, like everyone else.
“This isn’t a huge surprise, but we had kept hoping that it would be possible (to host Norway Cup” 93 days from now,” Trælvik tolf Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “But now it’s official, it will be cancelled. It’s very sad.”
Enter the ‘Impossible Games’
Some organizers aim to move forward with major events but without any public present. The traditional track and field competition called Bislett Games, held at the Oslo stadium where the 1952 Winter Olympics was held, will be held as scheduled on June 11, renamed the Impossible Games.
It will still feature sports stars like Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm and the Ingebrigtsen brothers, and the Swedish discus thrower Daniel Ståhl plans to attend. Renaud Labillenie of France can’t attend “but will jump in his own garden and take part online,” Bislett Games chief Steinar Hoen, a former athlete himself, told reporters late last week.
The event will also be covered live by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), there just won’t be any cheering fans in the usually packed grandstands. “The public can still follow along from home,” Hoen said enthusiastically, “and we hope we can drum up some spirits.”