Norway is a nation that loves its sport. Naturally, winter sports are predominant and there are many famous Norwegian sportsmen across a number of different disciplines, while Norwegian players have also made a significant impact on world football. For anyone interested in sport, whether it be watching or participating, there are endless possibilities when visiting Norway to see some great sporting locations and to take part in a range of winter sports.
Cross country skiing is one of the most popular pastimes in the country, and Norway is one of the best places in Europe for visitors to come and enjoy this sport. Cross-country skiing is all about the location, and nowhere provides locations that are as spectacular and challenging as those in Norway, particularly in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley. The landscape is vast and ever-changing, while the gentle pace allows you time to savor the spectacular views.
A fascinating sporting location for tourists to visit is Lillehammer, site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. This is a wonderful place to experience a whole range of winter sports, and nearby at Nordseter and Sjusjøen are 350 km of the best cross-country skiing trails in Europe, as well as an outstanding ski centre at Hafjell. Lillehammer is also worth visiting for the town’s 19th-century wooden houses, which have been carefully preserved, as well as the excellent Norwegian Olympic Museum.
An extension of cross-country skiing is Biathalon (sometimes known as ski shooting). This involves competitors following a cross country skiing course and breaking for four sets of shooting, both lying down and standing. This is a sport that is followed extremely closely in Norway, with a number of high-profile events and championships.
Ice hockey too has a big following in the country, with the national team previously being ranked as high as 8th in the world in 2012 and having appeared in 10 Olympic Games. There are four divisions in the Norwegian Ice Hockey League and most major cities have a team, the majority being located in Oslo although the biggest stadium in the country is at Hamar.
Norway´s most well known ice hockey player is Mats Zuccarello Åsen. He plays for the New York Rangers in the National Hockey League (NHL).
One of Norway’s most famous winter sports locations and one that all tourists should visit is the Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo. There has been a jump here since the 1890s, with the current version being built in 2010, and it’s the most modern ski jump in the world and the only one made from steel. It starts 60 meters above the ground and when lit up at night is a remarkable sight. Visitors can go to the top of the tower, where there are spectacular views of Oslo, or visit the museum highlighting the history of skiing over 4,000 years.
Vikersund has the only "Ski-flying" slope in all of northern Europe. The record jump here is World Record 246,5 metres!
However, it’s not only winter sports that are followed enthusiastically in Norway. Football is passionately supported, not least because of the way its players have made such a significant impact on world football, especially in the English Premier League. Throughout the 1990s, many stars at English clubs were from Norway, including championship winners at Manchester United - Ole-Gunnar Solskjær, Ronny Johnsen and Henning Berg, the last of whom also won the league with Blackburn Rovers, the only Norwegian player to have won the title at two different clubs. Currently, 9 players play with English Premier League Clubs, most notably Brede Hangeland and John Arne Riise at Fulham.
Norway’s influence on English football is set to continue, with Ole-Gunnar Solskjær having been appointed in January 2014 as manager of Cardiff City in the Premier League, only the second Norwegian to fill such a role.
Harness racing (or trotting, as it is also known), was also hugely popular in Norway. There are eleven tracks in the country, and although race meetings have been held throughout Norway since 1875, the modern popularity of the sport owes a great deal to one particular horse Rex Rodney, the winner in 1986 of Europe’s premier harness race the Elitloppe, and the first Norwegian horse to do so. Norway was consumed with excitement about the historic win, which fanned the country’s enthusiasm for the sport, but unfortunately fans of Rex Rodney were to be disappointed in 1987 when, as hot favorite to repeat his victory, he galloped at the start and was disqualified. Norwegians still like the sport, but since Rex’s fall its popularity has dwindled a bit.
Betting on all of these and other sports is also extremely popular in Norway, where there is a very active, albeit highly regulated, sports betting culture. Major cross country skiing events always generate a market, as do ice hockey and football matches, and it also possible to bet on all harness racing meetings. As well as sports betting, playing slot machines has always been a pastime enjoyed by most people in Norway. Slot machines were licensed to be operated by registered charities, although in practice it was usually private companies who operated the slots on their behalf. What this ultimately meant was a proliferation of slots throughout the country, so much so that they could be found almost anywhere in Norway, including pubs, petrol stations, supermarkets and shopping centers. It was thought that this easy and unrestricted access to slot machines was creating a culture of problem gambling, and so in 2007 slots were banned from the country.
Nevertheless, Norwegians’ enthusiasm for playing slots has not been diminished, and so instead they now play slots online in growing numbers. The most popular sort of sites with Norwegian players are online casinos that offer a full suite of casino games, including slots, blackjack and poker, or specialist sites that are dedicated just to online slots.
These sites, despite allowing players to deposit and withdraw funds in kroner, are not operated from within Norway, as online gambling or operating an online casino in Norway is illegal. Nevertheless, this law has proved extremely difficult to enforce and the Norwegian government does not ban the IP addresses of online casino sites, meaning that although playing at an online casino is technically illegal, players are able to access online casino sites without any problems.
MØRE & ROMSDAL