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The big screen outside Oslo Sentralstasjon | Didrick Stenersen/Courtesy of Visit Oslo
The big screen outside Oslo Sentralstasjon | Didrick Stenersen/Courtesy of Visit Oslo | @Didrick Stenersen/Courtesy of Visit Oslo
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Professionals Put Work Aside for Winter Olympics in Norway

Picture of Danai Christopoulou
Updated: 23 February 2018
Everyone loves the Olympic Games. They bring people together, make them excited about sports and give them a chance to root for their country (in a fun and healthy way). The Winter Olympics though, is a different story — for most countries: viewership is usually lower, with many people finding the winter sports ‘boring’. Well, Norwegians would beg to differ. Every four years in February, everything slows down so that people can watch the games, and cheer for Norway’s inevitable triumph. Even when they are at work.

‘I’m sorry, Norway can’t come to the phone right now…’

Norwegians are famous for their excellent work-life balance. It’s one of the things that make Norway such an attractive destination to (overworked, recovering workaholics) expats: no matter what’s happening at work, people here understand that their personal life and interests matter just as much. In fact, when it comes to the Winter Olympics, their personal life and viewing habits actually matter more than that meeting.

According to polls, almost a quarter of all Norwegians admit they have been watching the Games from work — since this year, due to the time difference with Korea, the Winter Olympics are being broadcast in the morning in Norway and are usually over by 2 pm. And they’re not just doing it from the privacy of their computer screens, either: professionals will sit if front of the TVs at the office and if the phone rings while a Norwegian athlete is competing… they will just call you back in a few minutes. Big screens are also set up in public spaces in many cities, like outside Oslo Central Station, to help those who can’t wait to go home.

Silver Olympian Ragnhild Mowinckel | © NTB SCANPIX, Courtesy of Alpinlandslaget
Silver Olympian Ragnhild Mowinckel | © NTB SCANPIX, Courtesy of Alpinlandslaget

So what does this mean for the country’s productivity?

Nothing bad, really. Employers mostly trust that their employees know how to prioritise and that to allow them to watch the Winter Olympics will make them happy, which increases productivity in the work space. After all, employers may not have a choice: 12 percent of the men in the poll, said they would keep watching during work time, even if their boss forbade them to. If this nonchalance feels weird to you, you need to remember that for Norwegians, the Winter Olympics are a revered tradition from a very young age. Even in school, teachers will gather children around to watch some of the Games if the broadcast is during class hours. So if school can take a step back during the Winter Olympics, then it’s definitely not the end of the world if that phone keeps ringing.

And it’s not just office and school life, either. The former mayor of Oslo had to apologise when, back in 2014, dared to say that Oslo’s municipal employees should refrain from watching the Games during work hours — let’s just say people did not respond well. The current prime minister has been spotted watching the Games on her tablet and mobile phone. In fact Norwegians are so enthralled by the Winter Olympics that, back in 1994 when they were hosting them in Lillehammer, a robber managed to steal Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ from Oslo’s National Gallery because everyone was just glued to the screen.

Norway's new favorite superhero, Robert Johansson the "flying moustache" | Courtesy of Hopplandslaget
Norway’s new favourite superhero, Robert Johansson the’flying moustache’ | Courtesy of Hopplandslaget

The name of the Game

So why is everyone so obsessed? The answer is simple: the Winter Olympics are about sports that involve snow or ice — and Norwegians are really, really familiar with both. Skiing, in all its different iterations, is something the people of Norway have been doing ever since they learn how to walk. It’s no surprise that, to this day, they hold the record for most medals in the Winter Olympics since they began in 1924 — or that the three athletes who have won the most medals ever, are Norwegian. And Norway’s performance this year in Pyeonchang, has been its best yet, with 13 gold, 13 silver and 10 bronze medals so far. You will excuse them if they’re in no hurry to get back to the real world and start answering phones again on Monday…

The men's ski jump team, slaying it | Courtesy of Hopplandslaget
The men’s ski jump team, slaying it | Courtesy of Hopplandslaget