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King and Queen of Norway attend 25th anniversary celebration of Lillehammer Olympics

It was February 1994 when the Olympic flame was lit for the 17th Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Norway was the smallest country to ever host a Winter Games, and many wondered if they could pull it off. But the impact of the event, widely regarded as one of the best Olympic Games ever, is still being felt decades later in this small mountain town.

Fast forward to February 2019, when the torch was lit once again as King Harald and Queen Sonja attended a special celebration to mark the 25th anniversary of the games in Lillehammer.

Queen Sonja hit the slopes in the “Kjerringsleppet” during the ’94 games and reunited with other participants at the anniversary event. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court

The King and Queen were presented with gifts by Olympic mascots Håkon and Kristin, then joined groups of children for a day of winter fun in Søndre park.

Activities included skating, toboggan runs, cross country skiing, biathlon, and more. The King couple took in the action, chatting with participants along with many who had volunteered for the 1994 games. They met with several of the Norwegian gold winners from the Lillehammer Olympic and Paralympic Games and experienced a parade with music, costumes, and uniforms from the games.

King Harald and Queen Sonja also attended a lunch at the Lillehammer museum to honour the occasion, along with county governor Knut Storberget and Lillehammer’s mayor Espen Granberg Johnsen.

As evening rolled in, the sport portion of the day ended and the anniversary committee set up a folk party at the Lysgårdsbakken ski jump ground. The bundled-up King and Queen witnessed the ignition of the Olympic fire once again and enjoyed entertainment from a scene made in the snow.

A fireworks demonstration concluded the anniversary celebration, just like the opening ceremony of the 1994 Games.

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It might be remembered best as the Olympics with the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan figure skating showdown, but there was much more to ’94 than the exciting competition.

The Lillehammer games also were the first to adopt sustainable practices. By using locally sourced, biodegradable and recycled materials in everything from the medals to the Olympic torches, Norway made it a focus to massively reduce the environmental impact of their games. This set the standard for future Olympic Games.

The ten sporting venues built for the 1994 Olympic Games remain in use today, and also hosted the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games. In 2017, the Lillehammer Olympic Legacy Sports Centre opened, a facility to educate Norweigan athletes and coaches along with those from other countries who don’t have the opportunities for winter sports experience.

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