Background to the Games

In line with the change to hold the Olympic Winter Games two years after the Olympic Summer Games, the next Paralympic Winter Games were held in Lillehammer, Norway in 1994, only two years after the 1992 Albertville Games. 

At the 94th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Seoul, South Korea in September 1988 the winter Olympic Games were awarded to Lillehammer.  In October 1989 the Board of the Norwegian Sports Organisation for the Disabled decided to apply to host the 6th Winter Paralympic Games in Lillehammer as soon as possible after the Winter Olympics. 

The Lillehammer Paralympic Organising Committee (LPOC) held its first board meeting in June 1990 and on the 15th July 1990 the Norwegian Sports Organisation for the Disabled was awarded the right to host the 1994 Winter Paralympic Games. 

In June 1991, the LPOC successfully applied to the Norwegian Parliament for funding and up to 90 million Norwegian Krone was allocated. As a condition of the funding, the LPOC had to be established as a limited company, the same as for the Olympic Organising Committee, with 51% owned by the Norwegian Government and 49% owned by the Norwegian Sports Organisation for the Disabled. The first meeting of the seven members, four appointed by the Government and three by the Norwegian Sports Organisation for the Disabled was held on the 21st August 1991. 

Hans Lindstrom, Technical Officer for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), visited the sites and considered the accessibility plans to be excellent, saying

Judging all this, the Technical Officer expects the 1994 Winter Paralympics to be the best ever organised.

This was the first Paralympic Games completely organised under the IPC and the first Winter Paralympics to use exactly the same facilities as the Winter Olympics.

The build-up to the Games

Logo

Logo for the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Games

 © International Paralympic Committee

The main illustration, depicting the sun people, was designed to evoke feelings of power, vitality, strength and energy, seen as characteristics of disabled athletes. This was the last time the tae-guks were used in connection with the Paralympic Games or the IPC.

Poster

Poster for the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Games

Slogan

The ‘No Limits’ slogan aimed to express the potential of the athletes and the Paralympic Movement.

Changes to Events

Ice sledge hockey (later known as Para ice hockey) made its debut. 

Para ice hockey game at the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Paralympics

Demonstration events were held in men’s 10km cross country classical technique and women’s 5km cross country classical technique for athletes with an intellectual disability.

Venues

  • Hakons Hall
    Spectator capacity – 11,500
    Used for the closing ceremony.
  • Hafjell Alpine Centre
    The 1050 metre high mountain has been described as one of the toughest courses ever for athletes with disabilities.
    Used for alpine events.
  • Birkebeineren Ski Stadium 
    Spectator capacity – 31,000 for cross-country and 13,500 for biathlon.
    Used for biathlon, nordic events.
  • Hamar Olympia Hall
    Designed by Niels Torp and Biong & Biong, it was built for the 1994 Winter Olympics and completed in 1992.
    Spectator capacity – 10,600
    Used for ice sledge racing.
  • Kristins Hall
    Built in 1988.
    Spectator capacity – 3,000
    Used for ice sledge hockey.

Mascot

Mascot for the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Games

 © International Paralympic Committee

The winning mascot was created by Illustrator Tor Lindrupsen, and depicts an apparently friendly teenage troll boy who is charming, good-natured, elegant and poised despite having had his left leg amputated above the knee.  

A separate competition resulted in him being named Sondre after skiing pioneer Sondre Nordheim.

The Paralympic Flame

This was also the first winter Paralympic Games to have a torch relay. 

The relay started on Friday 4th March, passing through Fagernes, Geilo, Hønefoss, Oslo, Hamar and Øyer, being met with celebrations in each, before arriving in Lillehammer on the 10th March.

The opening ceremony

Opening ceremony of the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Winter Games

 Raising the flag at the opening ceremony © Ian Brittain

The competing nations were officially welcomed to Norway by Her Majesty, Queen Sonja of Norway, at the Opening Ceremony on the 10th March. 

Helge Bjørnstad, a Norwegian ice sledge hockey player, lit the Paralympic flame after being winched up to light the cauldron (later, he admitted that he had been worried his prosthesis might fall off in the middle of the ceremony) and the athlete’s oath was taken by Norwegian skier, Cato Zahl Pedersen. 

All five continents were represented by the performers in the opening ceremony, representing the five tae-guks. In all, about 600 performers took part in the ceremony which lasted two hours and included wheelchair dance sport and traditional Norwegian folk dancing.

Norwegian pop group A-ha performed 'Shapes That Go Together' which had been specially written for the ceremony. The Official Report says the Organising Committee hoped it would be an international hit, it reached #27 in the UK charts and was in the charts for three weeks, it reached #57 in Germany, #28 in Poland and #15 in Japan.

During the Games

The social scene during the Games has been described as exceptional with films shown in the village cinema every night and a disco that was always popular, no matter what events were scheduled for the following day. 

Ice sledge hockey emerged as an extremely popular spectator sport and saw a black market spring up, with tickets being sold at very high prices for the last rounds.

The Medals

Front side of the gold medal from the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Winter Games  Reverse side of the gold medal from the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Winter Games

Gold medals from the 1994 Paralympic Winter Games © Ian Brittain

The inner part was made of precious metal, which was set into a larger iron medal. The crossbar used pictograms, similar to those used by indigenous Norwegians, to depict the Games events.

Medal statistics

469 athletes from 31 countries, competed in 5 sports. Great Britain won 5 bronze medals, finishing 21st in the overall medals table.

Prominent British Paralympic athletes

  • James Barker won bronze in alpine men's downhill LWXI. 
  • Richard Burt won bronze in alpine men's giant slalom B3 and men's super-G B3, adding to his silver in men's giant slalom B3 and bronze in men's super-G B3 won at the Albertville 1992 Paralympic Winter Games. 
  • Matthew Stockford won bronze in alpine men's super-G LWX, adding to the three bronze medals he won at the Albertville 1992 Paralympic Winter Games in men's giant slalom LW10, men's downhill LW10 and men's super-G LW10. 
  • Peter Young won bronze in cross country men's 5 km classical technique B1. A piano tuner, Peter started skiing in 1974 at the age of 18 when he went to Norway for a party. In 1999 the Council of the Ski Club of Great Britain awarded him the Pery Medal for an outstanding contribution to snow sports, read the commendation here.

The closing ceremony

The closing ceremony on the 19th March in Hakon's Hall was attended by the King and Queen of Norway. The entertainment was mainly by Norwegian performers with a contribution from Nagano, the next hosts.

Before the flame was extinguished, an ‘offshoot’ was taken and transported to Sarajevo, which had been under siege since September 1992 as a result of the Bosnian war, it was accompanied by fourteen athletes, along with the Paralympic flag. This was a joint project with The Peace Flame Foundation and drew a large amount of media coverage.

References

  • Ian Brittain, From Stoke Mandeville to Sochi: A History of The Summer And Winter Paralympic Games. Common Ground Publishing
  • Steve Bailey, Athlete First, A History of The Paralympic Movement. Wiley
  • https://www.paralympic.org/lillehammer-1994
  • https://www.paralympic.org/lillehammer-1994/medals
  • https://architectureofthegames.net/1994-lillehammer/lillehammer-1994-vikingskipet-hamar-olympic-hall/
  • https://www.lillehammer.kommune.no/kristins-hall.4905643-447647.html
  • http://www.toolkitsportdevelopment.org/html/topic_F0B476C1-F9D1-4BC7-9768-37EFDA78E6E5_DBF6BB1C-FFF7-4A6D-A9A4-21529D2277B6_15.htm