Global Cooperation

In Norway, kids aren’t taught to compete with each other until they’re teenagers

Cross-Country Skiing - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's 4x5km Relay - Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 17, 2018. Gold medalists Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, Ragnhild Haga and Marit Bjoergen of Norway celebrate during the victory ceremony. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Norway is leading the medal table at this years Winter Olympics, and is the most-decorated nation. Image: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Rob Smith
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Norway is the most-decorated nation to compete at the Winter Olympics. Between 1924 and 2014, the Nordic country accumulated 118 gold, 111 silver and 100 bronze medals.

Norwegian skiers celebrate winning gold in Pyeongchang Image: REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

It is also home to the most-decorated winter Olympian, biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen, who has a total of 13 medals, including eight golds.

Norway won 329 medals in 90 years Image: World Economic Forum

As the Pyeongchang Games draw to a close, Norway has only extended its dominance, smashing its pre-Olympic medal goal of 30 with several days to spare.

At the time of writing, Norway had secured 13 gold, 14 silver, and 10 bronze medals.

But how is a country that’s home to just 5.2 million people so successful? One possible answer: Norway doesn’t keep score.

This might sound bizarre, but it’s a strategy that clearly works, according to Tore Øvrebø, Norwegian Olympic Committee director of elite sports. The idea involves encouraging children to play sports without letting them keep score or count who’s winning and losing until they reach the age of 13.

It’s all about fun and friendship

Speaking to USA Today, Øvrebø explained the approach: “We think it’s better to be a child in this way because then they can concentrate on having fun and be with their friends and develop.”

And after the idea of competition is introduced, Øvrebø says the focus on having fun and socializing remains strong – even among Norway’s top Olympic athletes.

“We go abroad as a big team that wants to have fun, and we should be even better friends when we come back home than when we leave Norway,” Øvrebø says.

Of course, camaraderie isn’t the only thing that helps Norway’s athletes win medals. Norwegians also have access to over 300 mountain peaks above 2 km, which according to the country’s tourist board, are “draped in a pure, white cloak” when winter comes.

And when winter does come, it lasts a long time, with the ski season often lasting until the end of April. Some resorts are even open until the early part of May.

Norway hosted the 1994 winter games in Lillehammer Image: REUTERS/AI Project

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that skiing is considered the country’s national sport. This was evident at the Lillehammer winter games in 1994, when Norway, which was competing on home turf, topped the medal table, having won (a previous best) 26 medals, of which 10 were gold.

Having already smashed its previous best medal haul, the only question that remains is: how many medals will Norway win this time around?

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