Joe and I went to cheer on Norway in the final of the European curling championship held here in Stavanger at the end of November. Norway has been known for their curling couture long before People Magazine picked it up.
#WeAreWinter is Team Canada's slogan for Sochi 2014 and it seems fitting. I love the Winter Olympics. I love watching our nation come together to cheer on our athletes and I love seeing so many countries come together with a love of sport. Even though these games in Russia have been controversial from the start, I can't help but be drawn in to the hoopla that is the Winter games.
As a Canadian, clearly I'm all for watching the Curling and Hockey but there really is nothing I won't watch. In fact, there are plenty of sports I don't follow at all throughout the year yet find myself drawn to the TV to cheer on our Canadian delegates. I can't help but tear up when I watch our flag raised and our anthem played when we've claimed a gold and even when we don't reach the podium, I'm proud of the sportsmanship my country has shown.
I'm not sure if Norway has an official Olympic slogan for these games but it should be #NorwayCanSki. In the last year and half, it's become blatantly obvious how large of a roll skiing takes in Norwegian society. In Oslo last February, Joe and I marvelled at the amount of people carting around skis in the city (perhaps not quite to the extent to bikes in Amsterdam but certainly up there.) In Stavanger, we don't really get lasting snow so we don't see people cross country skiing however we do see people using road skis all year long. They're essentially a ski with wheels allowing people to practice the sport on pavement. All winter long, every weekend, skiing competitions grace our television and now that the Olympics are on, the ski atmosphere has only heightened.
Norway has won more Winter Olympic medals than any other nation in the world. (This article takes an interesting look at that fact and perhaps some of the reasons behind it.) Even as someone who pays particular attention to the Winter games, before moving here I really had no idea of their success. When I looked a little closer at the medal table, it's obvious where their strengths lie and perhaps they continue to float under the radar of many nations who don't pay particular attention to skiing. While the Canadians are busy watching hockey, Norway is dominating the cross country skiing scene.
In other winter sport, Norway is also well-known for its national curling team who is recognizable for two reasons: obviously, their style choices as their heavily patterned pants stick out amongst a sea of black. Secondly, the skip, Thomas Ulsrud, is pretty handsome. This year it seems that international media (outside of big curling nations) have picked up on this.
While my allegiances lie with Canada, I'm quite enjoying having two Olympic teams to cheer for this year. It's also been interesting to watch another winter-centric country's take on the games. Like home, athletes are gracing milk cartons and cereal boxes. A large screen TV has been set up in our local shopping mall and Joe's noticed loud cheering in his office during the day, presumably when the cross country events are on. Tonight, the two countries meet centre ice for Canada's first men's hockey game. Norway isn't particularly well known for hockey but I'm enjoying a little friendly rivalry between my two homes. My landlord had a chuckle when I answered the door today in my Team Canada jersey.