Almanack: Loose moose may threaten Olympics

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The Independent Online
NEXT February's Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, promise to be most unusual. Three of the most pressing problems facing the organisers are moose, celebrities and Lutherans.

Moose commonly stroll the streets of Lillehammer, and often stray on to main roads and railway lines, where they are disdainful of approaching vehicles. Should one wander in front of a train during the Games, the collision could throw Lillehammer's tightly scheduled Olympic transportation system into disarray. So Norwegian railways have hatched a cunning plan. Shortly before the Games, staff will drag tempting supplies of moose food (aquatic plants, grass, herbs, bark) into the wilderness at strategic distances from the railway lines, in the hope that the ponderous ruminants will stay out of harm's way.

Also unwelcome at the Games: celebrities. Stars will have to fend for themselves, according to an Olympic Committee spokesman, Odd Ustad. 'We already have more than we can handle,' Odd protests. But he was unable to estimate how many minor royals, faded movie stars and game-show hosts are heading for Lillehammer. 'These kind of people aren't too good at letting you know in advance,' he says, with traditional Norwegian hospitality.

Lastly, the Lutherans - a powerful group in pious Norway - want the Olympic hymn banned because, they claim, it praises the Greek god Zeus. 'I regret that the Olympics, which are supposed to be religiously neutral, include a prayer hymn to Zeus in the opening ceremony,' says Magnor Kristen Langset, of the Lutheran Church's Olympic committee. But the organisers are standing firm. 'I don't see any problem with it,' says Knut Brakstad, a clergyman working for the Lillehammer Olympic Organising Committee. 'I think it's looking back at the Greek ideals, rather than worshipping Greek gods.'