Lillehammer to host 2016 Youth Winter Olympics

The Norwegian city of Lillehammer is to host the 2016 Youth Winter Olympic Games, 24 years after it hosted the senior version, it was announced in Lausanne on Wednesday.

Lillehammer to host 2016 Youth Winter Olympics
Photo: Maciej Zytniewski (File)

Lillehammer – which will follow the inaugural edition in Innsbruck, Austria, next year – was the only candidate which is something the International Olympic Committee is seeking to address.

Gilbert Felli, Olympic Games Executive Director, said that they had identified two areas which needed improving to encourage more candidates.

"We have looked at it in terms of timing for the bids to be received and the positioning of the Youth Olympic Games," he said.

"We already think we have four-five candidates for the 2018 Summer Games after a seminar we held in November and the deadline for which is March 15th.

"We have learned our lessons. The Youth Olympic Games is something new."

The Norwegians couldn't have cared less about the lack of competition for the hosting of the event, which will host 1,000 athletes from the ages of 15-18 competing in the same seven sports on the Olympic Winter Games programme.

"The IOC's decision will help boost youth sport in Norway and internationally," said Norwegian Minister of Culture Anniken Huitfeldt.

"Hosting the 2016 Youth Games coincides nicely with existing plans to further develop the Lillehammer region as a winter sports destination, and a number of the arenas used in the 1994 Olympic Games will be reused for the Youth Olympic competitions."

IOC President Jacques Rogge – who was the force behind the introduction of the Youth Olympic Games – was delighted that Lillehammer would be the host.

"We are excited to be going back to Lillehammer, which hosted an unforgettable Winter Games in 1994," he said.

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Norwegian Winter Olympics superstar Marit Bjørgen to retire

Norway's legendary biathlete Marit Bjørgen, who won a record eighth gold medal at the Winter Olympics in February, on Friday said she would call it quits at the age of 38.

Norwegian Winter Olympics superstar Marit Bjørgen to retire
Norwegian biathlon legend Marit Bjørgen. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

“I don't feel I have the motivation required to give 100 percent for another season, that's why I'm quitting,” she told public broadcaster NRK.

“I thought it would be easier to say. I'm emotional. It has been an epoch in my life, over 20 years. So it's a bit special to say that this is my last season as an elite athlete,” she said.

Bjørgen underlined her status as an all-time great in the sport at the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea earlier this year, when she grabbed a record-extending 15th Winter Olympics medal, winning the 30km cross country to put Norway top of the final medals table.

The Olympian had earlier become the most successful winter games competitor of all time by finishing third in the team sprint free.

Her bronze with Maiken Caspersen Falla put her on 14 Olympic medals, outstripping fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjørndalen, who has 13 in the biathlon.

Bjørgen is also the second most successful woman at either the Summer or Winter Games, trailing only Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina with 18 medals.

She was showered with tributes from fellow athletes, and politicians, after the news broke on Friday.

“She was terribly important to me, she was my idol,” said Therese Johaug, a seven-time world champion and former Olympic gold medallist who was suspended after failing a drug test.

“You have been a source of inspiration and a role model, you made us jump with joy and scream with excitement,” former Norwegian Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on his Twitter account.

Bjørgen claimed her first World Cup victory in Dusseldorf in October 2002 and her first Olympic medal (silver) in Salt Lake City the same year.

She gave birth to her first and only son, Marius, in 2015.

Norway, a country of 5.2 million people, enjoyed a barnstorming Winter Olympics, breaking the United States' 2010 record of 37 medals at a single winter games.

Bjørndalen, the most decorated male Winter Olympian in history, also announced his retirement this week, saying he would quit at the end of the season at the age of 44.

READ ALSO: 'We are not super-human': the secret to Norway's Olympic success