Corona cuts back Peace Prize party

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Whoever wins this year’s Nobel Peace Prize won’t be hailed inside a packed Oslo City Hall, or at a traditional banquet afterwards with royalty present. The Corona pandemic has forced major changes in how the Peace Prize will be awarded, and in some ways the ceremony now planned is going back to its more modest roots.

This sort of gathering, with around a thousand people sitting close together inside the Oslo City Hall, is no longer allowed under Corona virus containment measures. That’s forced major changes in the Nobel Peace Prize program this year. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

It had expanded massively during the past 30 years, especially after US network CNN started broadcasting it live and internationally. The awards ceremony was moved to the spacious, richly decorated lobby of the Oslo City Hall in the early 1990s, a large internationally televised Nobel Peace Prize Concert was introduced, and Norway’s king and queen started attending an annual Nobel Banquet at Oslo’s Grand Hotel, the guest list for which expanded as well.

The concert was dropped last year and now Corona virus restrictions are limiting the size of public gatherings, imposing quarantine requirements and complicating international travel. The Nobel Institute in Oslo announced on Tuesday how it’s been forced to adapt.

Ceremony returns to former venue
The large award ceremony in Oslo City Hall on December 10, always held on the day Swedish prize benefactor Alfred Nobel died, has been cancelled. Instead, according to the institute, a “scaled-down award ceremony” will be held on the same day and at the same time (1pm) back in the University Aula, a much smaller but also richly decorated auditorium on the site of the University of Oslo’s historic downtown campus.

The Aula served as venue for the event from 1947 to 1989, when the Dalai Lama became the last Nobel Laureate to receive his prize there. It’s best known for the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s murals that adorn its walls.

Only a “limited” number of guests will be invited, with the Nobel Peace Prize winner or winners (due to be announced October 9) present either physically or digitally. The traditional Nobel banquet that has followed the Peace Prize ceremony on the evening of December 10 has also been cancelled.

Other events uncertain
It remains unclear whether the winner or winners will be able to travel to Oslo in December, or stay as usual at the Grand Hotel. They’re also traditionally hailed with a torchlight parade outdoors, and make an appearance on the balcony, but uncertainty surrounds that as well. The Nobel Peace Prize Concert formerly held on December 11 has been cancelled, too, but the Norwegian Nobel Institute announced that it “will be relaunced in a completely new fashion in 2021.”

The institute stressed that “2020 is an atypical year,” adding that “unless something unforeseen happens, next year’s ceremony will again take place in Oslo City Hall.” Committee Secretary Olav Njølstad stated that no decisions have yet been made as to whether other Nobel events in Oslo, including the Nobel Peace Prize Forum on December 11 or the winners’ private meetings with the royal family and government leaders, can be held.

The prize announcement will be made on the second Friday of October, as usual, but its format with lots of media present is also being scaled down in order to comply with “infection control advice given by the Norwegian Public Health Institute.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund