CELEBRATING GRETE

     Oslo, Norway- Next Tuesday May 17th Norway will celebrate National Day, commemorating the signing of its constitution in 1814 which declared the country to be an independent nation free from Swedish rule.  All over Norway children’s parades will be the central expression of the celebration, with the longest parade here in Oslo where over 100,000 people will gather in the city center to participate in the festivities. Accordingly, Norwegian flags can be seen hanging prominently throughout the capital in preparation for the national holiday.

I arrived in Oslo yesterday to join in another national memorial service, this one to celebrate the life of Norway’s legendary runner Grete Waitz who died April 19th at age 57 after a long battle with cancer. The nine-time ING New York City Marathon champion and four-time world record holder in the marathon was buried in a private ceremony April 28th with government honor at state expense, only the sixth woman in Norwegian history to be accorded that distinction.

Tonight at 6 p.m. at Bislett Stadium leading Norwegian politicians, members of the Royal family, and thousands more touched by Grete’s short, but extraordinarily well-lived life will bid a public farewell to one of Norway’s most beloved international ambassadors.  A delegation from the New York Road Runners also arrived for today’s service, led by its chairman George Hirsch, president and CEO Mary Wittenberg,  marketing chief Ann Wells Crandall, and media director Richard Finn. Also on hand is 1984 Olympic Marathon champion Joan Samuelson, Grete’s great friend and athletic rival. Continue reading