The first international athletics meeting was held at Bislett in 1924. Torshaug IF staged large events called "the Americans meetings" from 1924 to 1937. The first world record at Bislett was actually set at the first meeting. The Dutch Adriaan Paulén (1903-1985) clocked the time of 63.8 in 500m in 1924. A total of 12 official and 2 unofficial world records were set at these meetings. In 1946, the European Athletics Championships were held at Bislett. Between 1947 and 1965, a number of different organisers staged the meetings, and the meetings had a variety of names. During this period, Bislett's collection of official world records increased from 14 to 30. Today, we can proudly say that Bislett Stadium is worthy of being called “the World Record Track”. No less than 65 world records have been set at the stadium. Adding the 4 junior world records brings the total to 69. Go to the Stadium section to get a list of all the 69 world records.
THE BISLETT ALLIANCE IS FOUNDED
On several occasions, the meetings produced large financial deficits. Considerable financial means was used to attract the best athletes, and the weather wasn't always cooperative. Hoping that they by joining forces and splitting the risks could work on a much larger scale than before, the three athletics associations BUL, Vidar and Tjalve in 1965 formed the Bislett Alliance. In 1965, Tjalve staged its anniversary event, where Ron Clarke of Australia set a new world record in the 10,000m, and from 1966 onwards the Bislett Alliance has been organising the Bislett Games. In the first years, there were two meetings a year, but then just one meeting in the summer. World records were broken on a regular basis, and Bislett and the games became known all over the world. In 1999, the magazine Sports Illustrated ranked Bislett stadium as the fifth best sports venue of the 20th century.
In 1993, the Bislett Alliance together with Zurich, Brussels and Berlin formed the meeting series Golden Four. In 1998, more meetings were added to the series and it changed its name to the Golden League. The very first Golden League meeting was held at Bislett on 9 July 1998 and the last one on 3 July 2009. As of the 2010 season, a new athletics World Series was set up, called the Diamond League. Bislett Alliansen played a role in forming the series together with the 14 other organisers and the international athletics federation (IAAF) and is also proud to be one of the 3 events, Zurich, Brussels and Oslo, which have been a part of all the most important series: Grand Prix, Golden Four, Golden League and IAAF Diamond League. The first IAAF Diamond League took place in Doha 14 May 2010.
ARNE HAUKVIK AND THE STRAWBERRY PARTY
Arne Haukvik became the driving force behind the Bislett Alliance meetings. As a keen member of the Bondeungdomslaget (BUL), he had taken part in the organising of athletics meeting since his return from the United States in 1955. It was also Arne Haukvik who started the tradition with the strawberry parties. Haukvik was Ron Clarke's manager and had much contact with the Australian. Clark brought his family over to Europe when he was running there, and since they had children of the same age, Haukvik invited Clark and his family into his home. There he served strawberry with cream - a traditional Norwegian summer dish. And the journalists who came to talk to Clark were of course given the same treatment. Little by little the strawberry party became an official press meeting for athletes, journalists and everyone that held positions in athletics, small and big celebrities. The party was held in Haukvik's garden at Økern in Oslo up until 2000, and from 2001 it has taken place at the Oslo City Hall. Arne Haukvik passed away in 2002 and did not got to see the great new stadium that opened 29 July in 2005. The new stadium brought new possibilities and the spectators and the athletes had much better facilities than before, and the interest in the meeting reached new heights. The uncertainty surrounding Bislett’s future as an organiser of world class athletics meetings was replaced by new optimism. The quality of the meeting at the new stadium, was if possible, even better than before. We have seen top performances from many athletes, in particular the two world records in the women’s 5000 meters by Meseret Defar in 2007 and Tirunesh Dibaba in 2008. The biggest international athletics series are held in Europe, whereas many of the biggest stars come from outside of Europe. The interest in athletics is increasing all over the world, not the least after the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. The sport of athletics is in the lucky position that we have a new sprinter who has taken the world by storm, Usain Bolt.
THE MODEST BEGINNINGS
The area where the Bislett stadium now stands was originally used by Bislett Tæglverk (brick works). We are now at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1898, the municipality of Oslo bought 60,000 m2 from the brick works in order to provide an area for sports and games for the north eastern part of the town. This area was already much used by the youngsters in the area for physical activities both summer and winter. The price was 500,000 Norwegian kroner, or about 8 kroner per square meter. Building sites in the area were normally sold for three times the price, so the purchase was a bargain for the Oslo municipality. There was a lot of building going on in Christiania (the name of Oslo until 1925) at the end of the nineteenth century, but the town's head of development, Thor Gallus, concluded that the clayed grounds at Bislett was not suitable for the building homes.
BISLETT BECOMES A SPORTS ARENA
In 1907, the sports man Martinius Lørdahl applied for permission to erect a sports house on the site, and then most of the area was handed over to organised sports activities. For the first time the area is called a sports arena ("Bislæt idrætsplads"). Martinius Lørdahl (1873-1933) did much skating, biking and running, and was an active member of several sports associations. He was committed to find areas that could be used for sports. He is considered one of the main enthusiasts behind making Bislett an arena for organised sports activities, and a square outside the stadium has been named after him. The opening of the sports arena took place with many festivities in 1908. The circumference of the field was 300m, and the facilities are described as a pavilion with dressing rooms for men and women plus a rest room. The conditions were quite simple in the early years, and the demand rose for the municipality to be a more active player. A sports arena was needed for both summer sports and skating. So the area became the property of the municipality, and in 1917 works started to build a completely new sports arena. A larger club house was built, as well as training facilities for boxing and wrestling, dressing rooms, showers and a café. A covered tribune was also erected. Ole Sverre was the architecture behind the building and the total costs were 1.1 million Norwegian kroner. The arena was opened in 1922. The main tribune in front of the club house and the terraces in the southern bend was built for the World Speed Skating Championships in 1925. The first tribunes as well as the roof over the tribune on the back strait (Store Stå) were made of wood. Between 1935 and 1939, the tribunes were rebuilt to make room for 32,000 spectators. In 1938, all of the wooden constructions were torn down and the stadium was rebuilt in concrete in 1940.
BISLETT TURNS CONCRETE
Architect Frode Rinnan was in 1938 asked to build a new stadium. Sverre's club house was embedded in the concrete, functionalistic building of Rinnan. For the sixth Olympic Games in 1952, Rinnan was assigned the job of upgrading Bislett, and both the opening and closing ceremonies of the winter games took place at the stadium. In 1984-85, the tribunes, showers and dressing rooms were modernised. The prominent club house was put up and a new glass-walled press tribune was built. In 1922, the whole of the field was covered by gravel. The area inside of the running lanes got a turf surface between 1935 and 1939, and in 1971, the running lanes got a tartan coating, which was refurbished in 1984-85. There has never been more than six running lanes at Bislett, which has been at least two too few for international standards in recent years. For the meeting in 2003 two additional lanes were built on the inside of the home strait by converting the long jump pit to make room for 8 runners in the 100m.
THE NEW BISLETT STADIUM
In 1994, a working committee was established with members from various sports associations, the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Oslo Park and sports department. The assignment of the committee was to come up with possible measures for the Bislett stadium. The report led to the municipality of Oslo organising a competition in 1995 relating to the rebuilding of Bislett stadium. Ten years later, after much political struggle on whether to refurbish the old or build a new stadium, the green light was eventually given to tear down the stadium. On 2 June 2004, the first construction machinery entered the Bislett stadium. Two months later all was ready for the reconstruction of an athletics stadium with international standards. The first world record of the new Bislett stadium is a fact already when the stadium is officially opened for Bislett Games on 29 July 2005: A new stadium is built in 10 months. The Bislett stadium has a capacity for around 15,100 spectators. The stadium complies with international standards for athletics arenas and with national standards for football at the top level. A total of 10km of pre-fabricated concrete tribune parts were required. The parts were transported by boat on more than 400 truck loads from Ålborg in Denmark. The stadium walls were moulded by means of sliding forms, which shortened the building time drastically: 100 meters of stadium walls at a height of 18 meters are moulded in a week. Much of the old tribunes was crushed and used to fill the ground under the new stadium. By shifting the stadium slightly in a north easterly direction, the number of spectators allowed was increased. The number of lanes is increased from 6 to 8 lanes without breaking the valuable interaction with the surroundings.. The architects behind the new stadium are Arkitektfirmaet C. F. Møller. The architectural solution for the project was founded on the goal that the unique relationship between the sports arena and the city should be kept. The structure of the arena gives the Bislett Stadium an intimate feeling. The walls are not formed by the tribunes, but by the surrounding buildings. Two corner buildings, at Bislett plass and Lørdahls plass, are also part of the stadium. The corner building at Bislett plass can also be used for other community functions. The main tribune, the VIP area and the press areas have separate entrances at Lørdahls plass. Again, Bislett has become a popular arena for everyday training and special occasions. Schools, athletics clubs and training enthusiasts of all ages flock to the track, and the stadium reaffirms its position as the most used sport grounds in Norway. The big change from the old to the new stadium is the indoor running track. A circular track of 540 meters with sprint markings runs towards Bislett gate. For financial reasons, the track was not fully insulated when the stadium opened. That did not lessen the rush to the stadium, and occasionally there were more people in the grounds than there strictly speaking were room for. In February 2010, it was again time to celebrate. The indoor running track and the insulation had come full circle. For Norwegian athletics, this is like a fairytale. It provides training facilities never before available in Oslo. In addition to the indoor running track, the building of the roof above the main tribune is entering its final phase. The roof is much needed and will increase the quality of the stadium even further. It broadens the opportunities for events that can be held here and also improves the experience of the spectators. In 2010 another football club will play its matches at the Bislett stadium. The old, venerable Lyn football club will move their games from the Ullevål stadium to Bislett and start on the road back to where they belong, the top division. The Bislett atmosphere will help them on the way!