Oslo’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival gets underway on Thursday and is set to make history on Sunday: 71 years after women were first allowed to take part, they’ll now race 50 kilometers just like the men. Since 1988, their long-distance race was limited to 30K.
“I welcome the change and wish I could take part myself,” said Norway’s retired ski queen Therese Johaug. She won last year’s 30K for women at Holmenkollen for the fifth time and thus unknowingly became the last to ever win it. The Holmenkollen Ski Festival is part of the World Cup and the international skiing federation FIS has ruled that men and women will now compete in the same World Cup distances.
When women could take part for the first time at Holmenkollen during the 1952 Olympics, the distance was just 10 kilometers. That was raised to 20K in 1981 and to 30K in 1988. Now the new women’s 50K race starting at 10:15am Sunday will be among events ending the four-day festival of cross-country and ski jumping, after the men’s 50K race was moved from Sunday afternoon to Saturday with a start time at 10:30am.
That move was part of efforts to lower the risk of rowdy fans known for getting drunk and causing trouble at Holmenkollen. TV2 reports that organizers are taking other steps to ward off excessive partying and drunkenness among young spectators by setting up an alcohol-free DJ zone inside the arena.
Events start Thursday with combined ski jumping and skiing, more jumping on Friday and even more along with cross-country races on Saturday and Sunday.