Why Norway dominated the Winter Olympics in Beijing


Why Norway dominated the Winter Olympics in Beijing


The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing ended a few days ago, and for Norway this has been their best Winter Olympics ever. With 37 medals in total, 10 more than number 2 on the list (Germany), and 16 GOLD medals, this was a new record! 6 more gold than we took in the Olympics in Lillehammer 1994, and 2 more than in Pyeongchang 2018.

There’s an expression saying that “Nordmenn er født med ski på beina”. (Norwegians are born with skis).. It’s far from the truth, but sometimes it makes me wonder.

So how come Norway is so dominant in winter sports?

There’s no easy explanation to this, but in this article I’ll present some reasons why Norway has been so successful.

Therese Johaug – Photo: Granada, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

A massive volunteer effort

To understand this better there is a Norwegian word that is handy to know; Dugnad. Dugnad basically means the collective effort of reaching a common goal. Getting together with your community on a local or a national level to reach an objective, and then later reap the benefits. At the beginning of the COVID pandemic the word dugnad was used a lot in Norway, to illustrate that we had to work through this together. It was a term that Norwegians understood well, and that united us together towards a common goal (most of us at least). Even though dugnad involves some sorts of labor, it’s often associated with something that is fun and rewarding.

Most sports clubs in Norway are partly run with the help of volunteers and a constant dugnad that makes sure that the club can operate. It’s estimated that the volunteer effort amounts to 58 million hours of work every year, and that this free labor amounts to a whopping 17,3 billion kroner. 700.000 volunteers are contributing in more than 11.338 clubs all over the country.

The dugnad can range from a mom and dad making waffles or cleaning the t-shirts of their kids soccer team. Or perhaps the members of the club get together and renovate the local club house, upgrade the arena or organize events and fundraisers for the club. It’s quite normal to encounter kids selling tickets to a lottery (the price being cakes baked by their parents), so that they can raise money for their club. You need to get creative 🙂

Of course there is also sponsors involved, and some funding from the state. But sports clubs in Norway would not be able to bring up this many top athletes if it was not for the dugnad, the volunteer effort.

Sports clubs are well funded

This goes together with what I mentioned earlier. Many clubs are able to raise a lot of money themselves, but in addition to this there is also some state support. For instance, every year a club can apply for funds to buy different kinds of sports equipment.

Sponsors is also key to bring in money. If you are a local business you can get your logo visible at a local arena, or on their clothing if you contribute with a certain amount. The more you contribute, the more visible you’ll be.

Many clubs also make money by selling entrance tickets, merchandise, food at events etc.

Innovative technological solutions to optimize performance

In Norway we have an organization named Olympiatoppen (top of the Olympics), which are responsible for training Norwegian elite sport. Various coaches provide valuable expertise to athletes, and they work together with the coaches for the national teams. Olympiatoppen got their own clinic and training facilities, and they do a lot of research on how to optimize the performance and gear of the athletes. The main facility is in Oslo, but they also have five regional facilities covering much of Norway.

Holmenkollen Ski Jumping Arena Oslo

Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo

Modern arenas and good accessibility

You’re never far from a sports arena in Norway. Be it a soccer field, an indoor handball arena or a cross country skiing stadium. Arenas are either built privately or public by the municipality.

In Norway, there is a national lottery company called Norsk Tipping. They are owned by the Norwegian government and administered by Norwegian Ministry of Culture. Every year the Ministry of Culture distributes a large portion of the revenue of Norsk Tipping to sports clubs. A lot of this money is used towards maintaining or building new sports arenas.

In relation to Norsk Tipping, there is a word that is important to know, Grasrotandelen (the grass root share). When you participate in any of Norsk Tipping’s lotteries, you can choose a club or an association that will receive up to 7% of the amount that you pay into the lottery. This percentage is named Grasrotandelen, and this way you can make sure that a small share of your money ends up in a club or association that you want to support.

The right climate

Yep, we are fortunate to have fairly long winters in Norway, and conditions are often good for winter sports. The last years winters have become much milder du to climate change, so many arenas use artificial snow to make sure that winter sports can still be done.

My family in the 1950s. From the left my grandmother, aunt, grandfather and father.

Long traditions for winter sports

The tradition of skiing goes way back in Norway. There’s been found skis dating back as far as 5200 years old. For Norwegians, skiing is a big part of our culture and identity. Did you know that Norway has the oldest ski museum in the world? It dates back to 1923, and can be found together with the Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo.

Pioneers such as Fritjof Nansen, who was first to ski across the inland ice of Greenland in 1888, served as a great inspiration in those early years of leisurely and competitive skiing. Later on during the 1900s, many other winter sports have become popular, and today there’s hardly any winter sports that we are not competing in at a high level.

—> You might also like: I visit the Holmenkollen National Ski arena in Oslo

My grandmother out skiing in 1938

A huge interest among the public

I grew up watching winter sports, and Saturday’s and Sunday’s (unless we were out skiing) my family would often sit “glued” to the TV screen, watching ski jumping, cross country skiing and slalom. It was a huge event for us and a natural part of our lives. I’ve hardly seen my dad during the Olympics this year, as he’s been busy seeing most of the events.

Top athletes inspiring the younger generation

Winter sport athletes often become celebrities in Norway. They make good money, get their own clothing collection and appear in the media a lot. Not just when they compete, but they are also part of the entertainment industry, such as reality shows, talk shows etc. Quite a few of them are pretty cool and good role models for the younger generation.

Watch cross country skiing norway

Typical family activity in Norway – Watching cross country skiing

Kids start at a young age

If you ask me when I learned to ski, my answer would be “I do not know”. I kind of always knew how to do it. That’s not entirely true, but I started skiing when I was around three years old, and by the time I was 5-6 years I would go full speed down any hill, no matter how steep it was.

I belive that the interest and skills passed on from one generation to the other plays a big role in why we are such a winter sports nation. I also like the fact that for the younger athletes the main focus is to have fun and be with your friends, and not to win at any cost (that comes a bit later).

A summary

Some reasons for why Norway is so dominant in winter sports

  1. A massive volunteer effort on the club level

  2. Sporting clubs are well funded

  3. Innovative technological solutions to optimize performance

  4. Modern arenas and good accessibility

  5. The right climate

  6. Long traditions for winter sports

  7. A huge interest among the public

  8. Top athletes inspiring the younger generation

  9. Kids start at a young age

This list could go on and one. My point is that there are many factors leading a small country of 5,3 million to be able to become number 1. I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’m looking forward to 2026 in Milan–Cortina already!

Tusen takk, thanks a lot for reading!

Your friend in Norway,


Pål of Norway With Pål

Pål of Norway With Pål

Norway native, veteran travel guide, sailor, filmmaker, and writer (you might have seen me in one of Rick Steves’ guidebooks!). I want to help you enjoy Norway the right way — like a local. Learn more about me.

DISCLAIMER: Products on this page may contain affiliate links, and I might make a small sum per purchase. For you this does not affect the product price, but supports me and my work, and makes me able to continue sharing my passion for Norway with you. Read the Disclaimer policy. Thank you, tusen takk!


  1. dag blomdal on February 23, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    This is an excellent and well researched article, thanks Paal, Everyone should read this…

    • Norway with Pål on February 24, 2022 at 7:59 am

      Thanks for your nice comment Dag!

  2. Amy van Meteren on February 23, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    I gratulerer, Norge! Jeg lærte akkurat "Nordmenn er født med ski på beina" i norsktimen min 🙂 Jeg likte de gamle bildene av familien din og det var også hyggelig å lese om dugnaden igjen, denne gangen fra en nordmann. It’s so nice to read all these positive messages in this upside-down world. Tusen takk, Pal. Ha det bra!

    • Norway with Pål on February 24, 2022 at 7:59 am

      Ja det er et artig uttrykk! Takk for at du tok deg tid til å lese artikkelen 🙂
      Hilsen Pål

  3. John Hinds on February 23, 2022 at 4:34 pm

    John Hinds
    Tusen takk Pal,
    Terrific, interesting read. After the US I cheered always for Norway and was happy to see their success. It is a mazing a country of Norway’s size can outdo all the others. You should be very proud.

    • Norway with Pål on February 24, 2022 at 8:00 am

      Tusen takk for checking out the Article John, it was so fun to follow Norway in the Olympics this year. I’m very proud for sure!

  4. Arden on February 27, 2022 at 3:53 am

    I was very impressed in the 2006 Olympics when Bjornnar Haakensmoen gave a ski pole to Canadian Beckie Scott to win a silver medal in a team sprint. I took my children to meet Bjornnar at a Stampede event in Calgary Alberta Canada. Bjornnar saw that my eight year old son wanted to interview him and he asked that the dignitary who he was talking to to wait while he answered my sons questions. He explained to the dignitary that the children are the most important. He won my heart! I find that Norway celebrates their next generation and many countries could learn from this. I have also visited Norway twice in the summer months and have seen Norwegians on the paths skiing with rollerblades on their skis. A very dedicated group indeed. I asked one young fellow, how does he stop, as we were in Oslo and it was very hilly. He said that he ducks and rolls. He had grass burns on his knees and elbows. That is dedication!
    Thank you for the wonderful article!

  5. Jeff Wilbur on February 27, 2022 at 3:53 am

    Tusen takk, Pål. Another great article

    • Norway with Pål on February 27, 2022 at 11:15 am

      Thanks for checking it out Jeff!

    • Norway with Pål on February 27, 2022 at 11:17 am

      Some nice experiences you have there Arden! Thanks for checking out my blog post. I have tried the roller skies a couple of times, but find it quite a challenge to stop. Oslo being very hilly its a bit of an extreme sport, so one has to be dedicated for sure! 🙂

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