A sports writer for USA Today thinks that Norway has been successful at the Winter Olympics because their athletes are friendly, and they have nationalized healthcare.
In his February 19 article, sports writer Dan Wolken wrote approvingly about how Norway is “kicking our red, white and blue rear ends” at the Olympics.
“Norway, which is always among the best nations at the Winter Games despite having roughly the same population as the Detroit metropolitan area, is on track to win at an unprecedented level this year with 26 medals and nine golds, practically matching their all-time best performance as the host country in 1994,” Wolken wrote. “Barring a major drought the rest of the way, Norway is likely going to meet its pre-Olympic goal of 30 and run away with the medal count.”
Wolken then pointed out that Norway was also “No. 1 in the United Nations’ Human Development Index last year.”
Tore Ovrebo, the Norwegian Olympic Committee’s director of elite sports, told Wolken that he thinks one of the reasons Norwegian athletes are more successful than U.S. athletes — at least this year, anyway — is because they don’t train their young contestants to worry about keeping score.
Ovrebo said that kids aren’t ranked early in their sports lives. “[W]e don’t make like No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 before they’re in their 13th year. 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,” Norway’s sports chief said. “We think the biggest motivation for the kids to do sports that they do it with their friends and they have fun while they’re doing it and we want to keep that feeling throughout their whole career.”
The sports executive also said that unlike in the U.S., child sports in Norway emphasize fun.
Indeed, as far as Wolken is concerned, this approach is ideal. But more ideal is that the nation has “free” healthcare.
“Norway doesn’t look at sports as an avenue to fame and fortune,” Wolken wrote approvingly, “nor is it an escape from their troubles. Because most Norwegians, it turns out, don’t have many troubles given the universal health care, free college education and high employment rates.”
Wolken apparently thinks that national healthcare makes better athletes.
The sportswriter even gushed that Norwegian athletes are better than American athletes because they are “friends” in Norway.
“And if that isn’t utopia-ish enough for you, get this,” the writer enthused. “Even when the athletes grow up and start competing for big trophies, they remain friends. Not made-for-TV-and-Twitter friends, but, like, real friends. Among the other things Norway encourages is for the sports and coaches to get out of their silos and talk to each other and learn from each other.”
So, friendliness, nationalized healthcare, and not keeping score, make Norway the “utopia” for Olympic athletes. Funny how this Norwegian athletic prowess only seems to only show itself in the Winter Olympics, and not in the Summer Olympics.
For all their friendliness, the Norwegians and their healthcare system produced the whopping total of four medals in the 2016 Summer Games, all bronze. Meanwhile, the unfriendly, uninsured, score-keeping American squad, produced 121 medals.
It’s almost as if the Norwegian winter dynasty has more to do with their country being really cold, than it does with how friendly they are.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.