Some Await Olympics, Some Just Want It Over With
Dec. 14, 1991
LILLEHAMMER, Norway (AP) _ Some people awaiting the start of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games around this mountain town are not athletes, coaches or fans.
They're neighbors. And they just want it over with.
Aud Pedersen's house rattles several times a day, every time a chunk is blasted out of a hill for an underground ice hockey rink being built directly beneath her basement.
Anders Fretheim's farmyard is crowded with workers and heavy equipment for a downhill ski run.
''I have nothing against the Olympics, but I wouldn't have minded having them at a distance - like 5 or 10 kilometers - and not right against the wall of my house,'' said Fretheim.
Construction of competition sites intrudes on the solitude of south Norway's mountains. In Lillehammer, itself, it's hard to spot any preparations.
The five-ring Olympic symbol appears on T-shirts and sidewalks. But narrow streets lined with well preserved 19th-century wooden houses are largely undisturbed.
''Those who notice construction live next to a venue,'' said Haakon Brusveen, a 1960 Olympic gold medalist in Nordic skiing. ''We don't notice it in Lillehammer.''
He said some of the 23,000 residents fear the games will ruin their picturesque town and diminish the beauty of nearby pine forests around Lake Mjoesa, the largest in Norway.
''I would have been happier if the Games had done more for the district. The Olympics have not created as many jobs as expected,'' said Brusveen, who runs a sporting goods store.
Winter sports are such a part of Lillehammer traditions that a skier adorns the town's coat of arms. The region claims to be the cradle of modern skiing. Many residents can't resist talking about the 1994 Games.
''We have heard little else since we rolled over the border,'' said French tourist Erik Muller ''We are arranging an Olympics in France this winter but we hardly hear anything about that.''
Visitors like Muller come to Lillehammer for its colony of artists and craftsman or for Maihaugen, an outdoor museum of about 130 historic Norwegian houses.
The Norwegian Olympic organizing committee says projects, budgeted at $1.1 billion, are on schedule halfway through the four-year construction period.
In the nearby town of Gjoevik, dump trucks trundle into a tunnel to an underground ice hockey rink. Atop the hill, about 10 yards directly above the man-made grotto, is Mrs. Pedersen's restored 80-year-old house.
''Every time they blast, the whole house shakes. Sometimes pictures fall off the walls. Windows and moldings have cracked. I'm very much against the Games,'' she said.
Designers say the $6.2 million rink will have an unsupported roof span of 195 feet, the largest of any such underground structure.
''It's impressive but I really didn't want it under my house,'' Mrs. Pedersen said.
Fretheim's cows have yielded to the clutter for a ski run that will be 85 percent on his property at Ringebu, north of Lillehammer.
''There have been a lot of strangers here every day. For me, its been quite a process to make it though. But I won't run away. I'll make it,'' said Fretheim, 67.
During the Games, racers will whiz past Fretheim's house. He could watch from his porch.
The rising cost of the Games, about four times the original estimates, worries some Norwegians. They say it is too much for a country of 4.2 million people to spend.
Brusveen, reflecting what seems to be the prevailing view, said, ''We must make the Games as good as possible.''
After several warm winters in a row, one thing worries him.
''We'll need snow,'' he said.
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