Norway 2014

The Shirt project wheels along! The next stage in the Journey is announced! On June 14 I shall set out from the Kirkenes Stadion (=stadium) home of Kirkenes IF in Kirkenes on the Russian border. This is probably the toughest challenge to date as we are not talking the flatlands of the Netherlands or the East of England. No, I shall face the mountains and valleys of the west coast of Norway. The backbone of the journey will be a visit to all the clubs in the top three divisions of Norwegian football. The journey will take me down from Kirkenes to Bodø (the most northerly of the Tippeligaen clubs to Trondheim (RBK), Molde, Aalesund, Sogndal, Brann, Haugesund, Stavanger on to Kristiansand, Skien and then 1000 km loop inland before finishing with the clubs in the Oslo area. A journey of some 5000 km. Hopefully, I will finish at City Hall, Oslo in one piece on or before the 31st August. This trip is NOT for the faint-hearted!

Why Norway?

In the 1840s, Ivar Aasen from Ørsta, Sunnmøre travelled the length and breadth of Norway to collate the dialects and language usage of the country. He wanted to hear and annotate the language so that he could create a standarised pan-Norwegian language. This he realised was very different from the “official” Danish language spoken at that time.

Yes, I will also travel the length and breadth of Norway to find out what Norway is REALLY like in the early 21st century. This may or not be very different from the “official” view of Norway and/or foreigners’ perceptions. This is part of The Shirt project which started in 2009 when Porsgrunn’s favourite son Bjørn Heidenstrøm cycled from Oslo to South Africa to raise awareness for the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees. It was continued by Steve in 2010 when he cycled to the 92 football clubs in the UK. (See www.bjornheidenstrom.com and www.theshirt2010.co.uk ) We collect football shirts and Bjørn now has over 700 sewn together in to the largest shirt in the world!! The 2014 journey will be to raise awareness for the Norwegian Red Cross, Røde Kors.

Ivar Aasen was armed only with pen and paper for his studies. He did not have a 21 gear bicycle or the legendary Hurtigruten boats to get him from town to town, village to village and farm to farm. I will have daily video updates, as well as access to 4G and the internet. I will have audio recording BUT to get NEAR to the people I will be on my own with just my trusty bike for company. I will have no car and no back-up vehicle. The entire journey will be recorded on www.ThisIsNorway.info website.

So, who do I want to meet? I want to meet YOU, Mr or Mrs Norway. I want to talk to you about oil, trolls, Hurtigruten, Norwegian.com, football, skiing, and brunost. I want/need to meet oil-rig workers, Erasmus students, the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the loved and the lonely. I want to meet fishermen, hill farmers, Lapp nomads, asylum seekers and those living in the poorer quarters of the cities. I want to meet church-ministers and atheists, brain surgeons and tree surgeons – in short, the 5 million people who make up 21st-century Norway.

And who do I want to meet more specifically? I also want to meet some of the people who have put Norway on the world map. The heroes and survivors of Utøya, Drillo, Bjørn Heidenstrøm, Bjørn Kjos, Idar Vollvik, Petter Stordalen, Petter Northug, Erna Solberg, Jens Stoltenberg, Jane C. Owen and many more. It is invidious to name names but these people (and many, many, many more) would add much to my understanding of Norway 2014.

…and let us not forget football. The Shirt project is inexorably linked to football and Norwegian football touches every aspect of society. I will visit every club from the biggest teams in Tippaligaen to the most humble clubs of Oddsligaen – and all those in between.

I have no funding nor corporate sponsorship and want to finance the journey with the love and support of the Norwegian people and 5,000 individual sponsors all pledging 10 NOK (or 1 euro!). The aim is to collect 5,000 signatures on one shirt, which is the symbol of the journey. 5,000 signatures and 5,000 donations – one for every 1,000 Norwegians. This should give a good overview of “ThisIsNorway 2014”. I also wants 500 fans to sponsor a 10 km stretch which will be dedicated to their favourite club.

My other challenge is to learn Norwegian. I have set myself the challenge of speaking conversational Norwegian by the end of the journey!

Let’s see if learning Norwegian is the toughest part – or will it be 120 days on the road in the sun and rain, snow (?) and storms.

If you have any ideas I’d love to hear from you.

PS: My second “Why?” “Ja, jeg elsker dette landet” (In English: “Yes, I love this country”) is a play on “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” (In English: “Yes, we love this country”), the Norwegian national anthem. Obviously, there is also a deeper significance in that Bjørn is a Norwegian and the very first push on the pedal was from Oslo in July 2009 and that he is a Norwegian citizen. The photo above shows the Shirt in 2011 after Bjørn had cycled the length of Norway!

Here is a good page in English with details of all the Tippeliga clubs en route. The Adeccoliga clubs are here.


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