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Norwegian Church Abroad brings a taste of Norway to Games

Royal family expected to attend Olympics in Whistler

It's called the Norwegian Church Abroad (or Sjømannskirken) and it will be the hub for all Norwegians during the 2010 Games.

"For every Olympic event we have a small place where we invite Norwegians to come," said Asbjorn Wilkensen, the overseas operations director of Sjømannskirken.

At the 2010 Games that place is in MY Millennium Place. It's a place where Scandinavians can come for some waffles and coffee, read the paper from "home" and speak to fellow countrymen. Wilkensen describes it as a place for cultural, social and spiritual events.

It's also a place to celebrate medal victories - "hopefully many of them," said Wilkensen.

More than 4,000 people stopped into the Sjømannskirken at the 2006 Torino Games and the doors are open in Whistler too.

"I think we'll have at least that many this time," he said.

When asked why the Church Abroad chose Whistler and not Vancouver as their hub for the 2010 Games, Wilkensen said it was "the obvious choice" as the host of the alpine and Nordic events, events where Norwegians are expected to perform well.

"We have a long experience with being together with the athletes," he explained.

Plans are also underway to hold an ecumenical service in Whistler during the Games with the co-operation of local Christian churches.

"It's very good to build bridges," said Wilkensen.

There are 50 Sjømannskirken around the world. It is a charitable organization supported by the Church of Norway and the Norwegian government.

Members of Norway's Royal family, including King Harald V, are also expected to be in Whistler during the Games.