Despite growing up in a hockey home, I have never been one for team sports, however, I do love the Olympics. I like the excitement, the costumes, the uniforms, the everything.
In 1994, my mom and step-dad still owned their hockey school and decided they wanted to make a few extra bucks and sold tour packages to to the Lillehammer Olympics.
I made my parents fill out my questionnaire about their experiences at Lillehammer so we could a feel of what it was like. Please keep in mind, they are Mid-Westerners so they didn’t give long, flowing answers.
What made you want to go to the Olympics?
Lyn: We had taken youth teams to play hockey in Oslo and Lillehammer for over 10 years and new the atmosphere would be exciting. We felt we had a good customer base through hockey and living in ND/MN where the heritage is Scandinavian.
John: To make money for the hockey school and watch the Olympic Hockey games.
Describe the atmosphere at the Olympics – is it full of excitement or long lines or what?
Lyn: There were no long lines because tickets were purchased in advance in packages. There were a few scalpers at the hot events like figure skating but that’s about it. It was FREEZING, even for ND people who knew how to dress. Our bus parked down at the edge of town and had to walk to the events in Lillehammer – up hill and it was very slippery – about ½ mile. At the Gjovik and Hammar where they had the skating events, the buses parked quiet close. The Norwegians are so very proud of their country and they had the biggest flags and rang bells. They always sang songs during the events. The spectators from countries other than the US sang their national anthem with full voice and gusto EVERY time….the US people were subdued. The beer flowed well into the night and that packed the small town of Lillehammer and everybody was your friend!
John: Actually no long lines, it was very cold in Lillehammer and the people moved very quickly everywhere. It was a party atmosphere in downtown Lillehammer day and night, mostly night.
What do we miss by watching the Olympics on TV?
Lyn: So much. On the Norwegian TV they showed ALL competitors. If there are 20 figure skating pairs, all 20 are shown on TV. It’s the same with skiers, the triathalon…all events are shown in full – and they broadcast 24 hours. I think they have national TV. While standing at the bob sled event, I could hear the sled coming but if I wasn’t focused at a certain point……..zoom – they were by and I missed them. That’s where replay is a good thing on TV!!
John: All of the participants who are not in first , second or third place, in fact every event has hundreds of participants and the TV only shows the top 6 or 10.
Do the athletes appear bigger in person than on TV??
Lyn: I suppose if a person holds them in high esteem, they would be but in general, most people just let them focus on their purpose of being there and didn’t bother them. I can’t remember the famous skier of the time…I think he was Italian or French….Alberto or something like that? There were people with signs and women crowding around him whenever he raced
Did you get to see Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan skate?
Lyn: I saw Kerrigan skate in the last event which is really more of a show. All the medal winners do a group skate thing – reminded me of a Disney On Ice production but it was fun to actually see her. No sightings of Tonya.
Besides hockey, what is your favorite Olympic event?
Lyn: Ski jumping. I can’t imagine having the guts to start at the top of that run and ski down to the point of jumping off into space. The seats for that event were super….I could see to the top and watch them all the way down.
John: Speed skating was fun and warm, like hockey. I also liked the ski jumping.
What was the best and worst part of being there?
Lyn: The best part was being at the events with people from all over the world. Everyone was friendly and I never knew if I’d be talking to some one from Sweden or Japan. And, of course, there were a lot of famous people there…I met Steve Young (former quarterback for San Francisco) The worst part was walking up the hills to the events. They were so slippery and instead of ice melt, they put down rocks, similar to pea rock, and people actually fell and broke legs and arms. Because there was no transportation within the city for spectators, some people just couldn’t make it to the events they wanted to see.
John: The worse part were the lack of facilities for the handicapped and elderly in Norway to get to the events in the ski jumping bowl area which was also the starting are for most of the other alpine events that took place there. The best was the hospitality shown to all of the visitors to Lillehammer and Norway by the Norwegians.
What sports did you get to watch?
Lyn: John took a group to the first 10 days and I did the second so I saw hockey, ski jumping, Nordic racing, bob sled, down hill racing and I think that’s it. I didn’t get to see the opening ceremony and by the time the closing ceremony came around, I was ready to go home. It was a once in a lifetime event for me. I don’t think I’d do it again.