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Norway gives green light for children’s free time activities

Children and young people in Norway have been given the green light to restart a range of sports and free time activities, so long as they can find a way to stick to strict social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Norway gives green light for children's free time activities
Culture Miniser Abid Raja announced the decision on Monday. Photo
Culture minister Abid Raja told the NTB newswire on Monday afternoon that sports teams, choirs, bands, and other group activities for children and young people could now restart, although he stressed they should only take place “so long as the infection rules are upheld”.  
 
Andreas Borud, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Children and Youth Council, said that the decision would be welcomed by young people across the country. 
 
“I think it's very positive,” he said. “Over time, I think we will see a careful increase in the selection of activities that they can offer their members.” 
 
But he warned that which sorts of sports or other pastimes could resume would be limited by what is possible under infection guidelines.
 
“It's going to be a very limited list of activities if you have to keep to groups of five people and keep a distance of two metres,” he warned.  
 
 
The Norwegian Guide and Scout Association has already analysed their normal activities to better understand which of them can be restarted over the next couple of weeks, with youth political movements undergoing a similar process.
 
“Activities that don't involve much physical contact are most likely to start first, together with activities that are outdoors,” Borud said. “A lot of the political youth organisations will soon be able to hold meetings at their local branches.” 
 
Football, and other team sports will also restart training, although normal matches remain out of the question. 
 
“The sports movement was very early in creating their own guidelines for how you could have training, and they have made guidelines for this together with the healthcare authorities, so a lot of sports clubs are also arranging activities now.” 
 
The marching bands which play such a big role in the country's National Day celebrations on May 17 will also soon restart rehearsals. 
 
“Marching bands and choirs will be able to restart some of their activities not far from now — but it won't be a full marching band standing in a usually cramped space,” Borud stressed. 
 

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SPORT

Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”

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