“The XVII Winter Olympics did not exist. These were fairy-tale Games, drawn from the imagination, staged in the pages of a children’s book. They could not exist. Reality cannot be this good.”
– Sports Illustrated, 7 March 1994
For the young athletes from 71 countries, participating in the II Youth Olympic Winter Games, the time has come to celebrate, to learn, to show what they are capable of, to take center stage, and to have fun. For us, old enough to remember, it is time for a walk down ‘Memory Lane’, to reminisce two weeks of Olympic dreams, a long time ago, under northern lights.
22 years have past now, and I must admit that only mentioning the name Lillehammer still makes me smile and brings back the pictures, faces, sights and sounds of Olympia’s most beautiful, most glorious winter. I remember Ice Hockey in Gjøvik’s iconic cavern hall, Gordeeva/Grinkov, Torvill/Dean, Oksana Baiul, Katarina Witt and Philippe Candeloro showing their mastery on ice, the invincible Johann Olav Koss, the duel between local favourite Espen Bredesen and ski jumping legend Jens Weißflog, Biathlon heroes Ricco Groß, Frank Luck, Mark Kirchner and Sven Fischer, Vreni Schneider’s swan song, and many many more. But there was more to these Games than just outstanding athletic performances. The thousands of spectators (as well as athletes, officials and journalists) were captivated by that unique, friendly, peaceful and cosy atmosphere, that only a tiny town like Lillehammer could offer. It truly was a fairy tale. And for me, the Games were even more than that, as they happened during a personally difficult time. They were my glimpse of hope, they let me fly far away from all my troubles to the land of the midnight sun, they gave me strength and optimism to look ahead. I cannot really explain why these Games had such a profound effect on my life, but they did. Maybe it really had something to do with magic…
And now the Olympic Family returns once more to that beautiful little town on the shores of Lake Mjøsa. Some 1100 athletes from 14 to 18 years of age will write their own stories, with their first chapters carved in the snow and ice of Gudbrandsdalen. When Princess Ingrid Alexandra will light the Olympic flame, exactly one week from now, and exactly 22 years after her father stood at the very same place, the dreams of Lillehammer will come alive again. Get ready to be enchanted!