Money is not solely responsible for Norway's sports rebirth. The new generation of Norwegian athlete has something to do with it, too. Jan Frederik Kvinnsland, press chief of the Alpine team, points out that the young Norwegians have broken free of a debilitating national inferiority complex: i.e., Sweden Envy. Says Kvinnsland, "For 200 years Norway was ruled by Sweden, until we got our independence in 1905. We hated being ruled by Swedes so much that we made them our target to defeat—at sports or anything else. We came to believe that the most important thing was not to win but to beat Sweden. This had a strange negative effect on our athletes, because they never cared if they excelled as world-class competitors; they just cared if they beat Sweden. Now we know we can do both."
With any luck Norway should win at least five gold medals in Lillehammer. The deep men's Alpine and men's cross-country ski teams, plus speed skater Johann Olav Koss, who won the 1,500-meter race in Albertville, are the best bets, but gold medals could also be won in ski jumping, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined and biathlon. On the other hand, medal hopes in hockey, bobsled and luge are slim again. The same holds true for figure skating, and that is one of the true Olympic oddities.
Norway, after all, is the land that spawned the greatest figure skater—and most famous Winter Olympian—of all: Sonja Henie. She won three golds, in 1928, '32 and '36, and became known around the world as Pavlova of the Silver Blades and the Nasturtium of the North before heading off to Hollywood. At the time of her death in 1969, she was one of the richest women in the world and the owner of a priceless art collection.
No Norwegian, man or woman, since Henie has finished among the top eight in Olympic figure skating. One reason for the decline is that Norway, a relatively poor country until oil was discovered offshore in the mid-70s, didn't have the money to build rinks. Another is that Norway has never had any world-class figure skating coaches. Whatever the reason, Henie's feats have become blurred in the minds of her countrymen. "These days," says Fredstad, "I think Sonja Henie may be more famous in Norway for the art museum she gave us than for her skating medals."
So what will Norwegians remember about the Lillehammer Games 50 years from now? Bushels of gold medals for them and none for the hated Swedes? Or wounded moose and stalled trains? The medal count is anyone's guess, but so far the moose look like a sure thing: Heavy snow has forced the moose to migrate in an attempt to find food, and wildlife researchers estimate that there arc now 10 times the normal number of moose in the region near the railroad track. There are plans to spread wolf urine beside the track to keep the moose away.
Moose or no moose, much of Lillehammer's legacy is already apparent: Norway's athletes, with a little help from the IOC, have again made the country the world capital of winter sports.