Now sixty years old, Eilertsen got his start in the Olympic movement while working for Norway Post, the presenting partner and organiser of the Olympic Winter Games 1994 Lillehammer torch relay. He was in charge of the relay’s logistics, transportation, and security, giving him a front-row seat to the incredible force of the Olympic flame.
“It was a lot of work to prepare that relay; 75 days around Norway in the winter can be a bit of a struggle, but we had a solid team and a wonderful network,” he says.
Olympic Torchbearer Became Divisive Symbol
In the Olympics, the flame represents the ideals of friendship, tolerance, and optimism that are at the heart of the Olympic spirit. An Author Named Vidar Eilertsen
“It brings home the significance of the flame as a representation of the Olympic ideals of brotherhood, tolerance, peace, and optimism. The sight of the flame signals the official start of the Games, a time of celebration for the entire nation.
The relay of the Olympic torch has the potential to bring the nation together and make people aware that the Games are being held in their entire country, not just in one particular city.
After his success with the Olympic Torch Relay in 1994, Eilertsen became an integral part of the planning process for future Olympic Torch Relays, either as a sponsor or in collaboration with the Local Organizing Committee. And he’ll be working for the IOC in a hands-on capacity at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Multitude of Unforgettable Moments
Unsurprisingly, he has accumulated a multitude of unforgettable moments over the course of 11 torch relays, but one in particular stands out to him from the Vancouver 2010 relay.
Edmonton, Alberta, was where the team was staying on day 76 of the relay, he says. Since Canada upholds the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, we had encountered a few protesters on our way there, with some people demanding an end to holding events on allegedly stolen aboriginal land.
That’s a valid point, but what I loved about Vancouver 2010 was that they included members of the four first nations, the original inhabitants of the Vancouver/Whistler area, on its board and committees. So, the organising committee and the initial communities had excellent communication and working relationships.
“As the torch relay approached Edmonton, we learned that some individuals planned to protest at a certain place along the route due to their belief that it crossed a hallowed ancient site where first nation people had been buried.
In reality, it was just a regular street. Because the relay is a voyage of peace, I was asked to go and talk to the individuals to see if we could sort things out.
A few hours before the relay was scheduled to arrive, I met with the leader, who was a member of a first nation, and we had a lovely conversation and exchange of knowledge, marked by mutual respect.
I let him in on the significance of the Olympic flame. We took the flame to 1,036 different locations across Canada, including 120 rural, first-nation communities that we visited specifically to provide as an inspiration.
What began as a demonstration against the Olympics and its symbolic torch relay evolved into an acceptance of both.