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New Norwegian Olympic Museum

Speech given by Her Majesty The Queen at the opening of the new Norwegian Olympic Museum at Maihaugen, 11 February 2016.  

Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
Friends of the Norwegian Olympic Museum

In 1952, I was fortunate enough to see Stein Eriksen winning the gold medal in giant slalom at Norefjell – at the Olympic Games – quite an experience for a 14 year old girl. At that moment I felt the wonderful sparkle of inspiration, and I started my first nervous efforts at down-hill.

Over the years I learned an important lesson – which I think may apply to all aspects of life. That is: Be not afraid of great heights - and try once more, again and again till you reach your goal! 

For many years slalom and cross-country have been part of my life, as they have indeed been a source of recreation and a way of life to many Norwegians. We call skiing our national sport.

And for a teenager in the 1950’s, the whole idea about experiencing an Olympic Games in your own neighborhood, where you grew up, was overwhelming!

But we also discovered in 1952 that we were not the only champions on the snow. There were other skiers who trained just as hard – and with the determination to be best.                 

This Norwegian Olympic Museum wants to commemorate and pay homage to the endeavors and results of all men and women, who have dedicated their life to competition and good sportsmanship for Norway in winter and summer sports. In this museum we will be able to meet our heroes of yesterday, of today and perhaps of tomorrow – in different ways; on a screen, in objects and photographs or in an installation. With the service of new techniques, the endeavors of the past may feel like new triumphs!     

16 years later, the Olympics would again be a part of my life: The King and I spent part of our honeymoon in Mexico in 1968 – at the Olympic Games, where my husband participated in sailing. He stayed in the Olympic village and I in a hotel in Acapulco with his family. I was a newcomer to many aspects of life on this occasion.  It was my honeymoon – the one and only!  It was also my first visit to Mexico – and indeed my first experience of the Summer Olympics! 

For several reasons I will never forget Mexico in September 1968 – and one of the reasons is the experience of different kinds of sports also in Mexico city.

My husband is still a keen and active sailor, and is very interested in all disciplines of summer and winter sports, so you can imagine: Major sports events, and especially The Olympics, have played an important part in my life.

I have visited 11 Games – both summer and winter. The first winter I was married I was frozen until late summer, having spent most of my free time travelling around Norway with my husband at all kinds of sporting events in the cold … 

Dressing for these situations can be a challenge, and the official outfits made for the games have at times been quite interesting! The dress code is part of the Olympic culture, and looking back – effects and garments serve as reminders of the time and specific games in which they were worn. Some of the special outfits and symbols of the various games are on display in this museum.

All of the Games have been special – but I must admit the Games here at Lillehammer were quite extraordinary.

On this occasion I got a wonderful gift from President Samaranch himself  - that I still enjoy - a light and wonderful IOC coat, which still is in use! 

I will never forget the wonderful atmosphere, the excited audience and the impressing athletes during the days in in February 1994.

It is now 22 years ago. The air was ice cold and beautifully clear, Lillehammer was the center of the world’s attention, and the athletes and the Olympic organization were at their best.

In the opening ceremony in 1994 trolls and fairy tales figures from Norwegian folklore, entered the spotlight, showing the world the way to the magical realm of Norwegian history and culture.  

On that particular occasion, I think we managed to combine the essential and original aspects of the Olympic idea – which is to challenge both body and soul, and to see physical performance in a cultural context.  

At that time, I had the opportunity to be a member of the cultural committee during the games, implementing Pierre de Coubertin’s ideas about culture as part of the Olympics. We organized the exhibition “Winterland”, which travelled first to Atlanta and then further on to earlier Olympic cities. As some of you might know: From 1912 to 1948, poetry, architecture, drama and painting were Olympic competitions. I still think it is sad we did not continue those disciplines!

But I am happy to learn that this Olympic games for the young ones have more than 200 cultural events going on during the time they are competing here in the district. The young ones show the way!

The combination of sports and culture is also the reason why we are gathered here today. The Norwegian Olympic Museum was opened at Håkon’s Hall in 1997. A museum is a sanctuary where the present can meet with the past. This time, we celebrate the exhibition here at Maihaugen – Lillehammer’s wonderful open air museum. Our national Olympic memory has moved – from the sports arena to this great cultural venue.

Here we can enjoy today’s performances in an historical context. With the aid of modern technology we can meet again the fabulous endeavors of yesterday. We can once again feel the desperate fears of failure and enjoy the glory of triumph. Quite naturally – and in the original Olympic spirit.

I would like to congratulate all the good forces united in realizing this interesting museum.

I am sure it will become a new attraction in this beautiful part of Norway, which has served as venue for so many spectacular sport events over the years.

It is a great pleasure to declare the New Norwegian Olympic museum open!




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