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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Drunken youth and wind plagued Holmenkollen Ski Festival, again

Brawls, intoxicated teenagers and strong winds caused trouble at the annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival in the hills above Oslo on Saturday. Police were calling on parents to help control their kids who ran amok along the sidelines of the women’s 50-kilometer ski race.

The fog that often plagues ski jumping competition at Oslo’s Holmenkollen wasn’t a problem on Saturday, but strong winds and rowdy specators were. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported how their bad behavior overshadowed Swedish skier Frida Karlsson’s victory in the 50K race, which she won by a full minute and 19 seconds ahead of teammate Ebba Andersson. Katharina Hennig of Germany came in third, trouncing the Norwegian skiers who formerly dominated cross-country skiing. The best of the 12 Norwegians taking part, Astrid Øyre Slind, placed seventh.

“That was very disappointing,” said former Norwegian skiing champion Petter Northug, who now works as a commentator or Norway’s TV2 while trying to mount a comeback himself. “We’re on home turf and it’s the 50K. I had hoped we would be in the running for a spot on the winners’ platform.”

Some of the roughly 30,000 spectators lining the route, meanwhile, added to the disappointment when they resorted to fist-fights and other forms of violence that filled up emergency medical care facilities at the scene. As many as 50 people were expelled, most of them aged 16-20, as rowdiness marred the event once again.

It wasn’t the first time police had to deal with rowdy crowds at Holmenkollen, with state broadcaster NRK reporting similar brawls in recent years like here in 2018. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Police accompanied by dogs tried to maintain control while Red Cross workers attended to around 130 injured or intoxicated youth “who couldn’t take care of themselves.” Seven had to be sent to Oslo’s emergency hospital, Legevakt. More fights broke out into the evening, also around the historic Frognersetern lodge and in a camp where some skiing fans traditionally spend the night in tents.

“There are many who have been violent and caused fights,” police operations leader Marita Aune told NRK. She and other police and security guards remained worried about public security during the men’s 50-kilometer race on Sunday. She urged parents  that “if you have teenagers who are heading up to marka (the hills and forests) tomorrow, it would be good to have a serious conversation with them.” She said she expected police charges to be filed against several of the agitators.

Some of the skiers reacted strongly to the disruptions along the racing course, telling Swedish newspaper Expressen how “it smelled of alcohol along the ski tracks,” while the silver medal winner Andersson claimed that such rowdiness “doesn’t belong at a sports arena.”

Organizers of the Holmenkollen Ski Festival had expressed concern about specators’ behaviour before events began, urged parents to get involved and also complained about all the garbage left behind by the public. Stefan Marx, manager of the event, issued a plea to “help us keep marka clean and safe” by not only picking up after themselves but also by donating money to help offset clean-up costs. He complained that city officials haven’t offered enough support and hoped Oslo’s new city government “will see the value of the festival to a higher degree than their predecessors.”

Marx also stressed how organizers pay for help from security firms and the Red Cross in addition to the clean-up effort, which he said took more than three weeks and cost NOK 1.5 million last year. “The result is that the Kollen races operate with negative margins, and money that could have gone to the ski sport and developing young skiers was gone. That’s a development that worries us.”

Oslo’s Holmenkollen Ski Jump is the centerpiece of the annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival, but several jumpers thought competition on Saturay should have been cancelled. PHOTO: Oslo kommune

There was more disappointment after the 50K race ended and ski jumping was set to begin at Holmenkollen. Strong winds made jumping conditions difficult and several ski jumpers thought the Raw Air competition should have been cancelled.

“It was terrible to jump under these conditions,” complained Norwegian jumper Robert Johansson. “It felt like the wind was coming from all directions, and it was chaotic.” Competition was steadily delayed and frustration grew among jumpers, sports commentators and the relatively sparse numbers of spectators huddled in the stands.

“I’m left with the feeling we could have done without this competition,” said NRK commentator Johan Remen Evensen midway through the first half. Officials maintained it was correct to carry it out, though, with event leader Svein Granerud (father of equally unhappy ski jumper Halvor Egner Granerud) conceding to NRK that it “was a challenging day, but it’s an outdoor sport, and we have to accept that. These are situations that come up.”

Ski jumping continues on Sunday along with the men’s 50K, with members of Norway’s royal family also in place among spectators. The recently abdicated queen of Denmark, Margrethe, also turned up in the royal box on Saturday, reportedly on a winter holiday in Norway. Norwegian King Harald V did not attend, since he’s still recovering from an infection picked up during a holiday of his own, in Malaysia.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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