Thursday, 19 July 2012

Getting Rejected

Rejected by Olympiatoppen.

Sometimes getting rejected is the goal (like in Rejected by Seven), other times it is both destructive and sad.

For several years I've been exercising at Olympiatoppen (OLT) in Oslo. The best gym I've ever been to, and I have been to a few. I love the atmosphere, the people and the gym itself. However changes have started to happen, and those changes are not for the better. At least not for me, and I doubt they are for Olympiatoppen as well.

In the beginning I felt very welcomed at Olympiatoppen. From day one I loved it there. There was a great mix of different people and through Olympiatoppen I've met a lot of nice, interesting and knowledgeable persons. Even our prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, used to do his exercises there, alongside with me. It was through this place I made friends with people like Hedda. We've had several motivating and interesting discussions through out the years, before, under and after awesome workout sessions at Olympiatoppen / Toppidrettssenteret (TIS).

It's also through this place I've met people like Pølsa, Helene, Anker, Mr B, Mr V, Mr L, Mr TEN, Mr Jean and many many more. Some great and upcoming athletic stars, some retired athletes, some brilliant coaches, some very successful businesspeople and some normal mediocre exercisers just like myself. True, I don't have many achievements worth bragging about compared to most people at this gym. I participated in the Norwegian Championships in telemark skiing in the late 90s, without doing too well (some results) and I became the Oslo district Champion on half marathon last year. The latter achievement was just luck, as the competition was far from hard (read more). So at Olympiatioppen I am really Mr NoOne in terms of achievements within sports.

This however did not use to be a problem. I was still welcomed there. I was still allowed to train with some of the best, and even getting assistance from some of the experts working at OLT. I've been motivated by the great training environment. And who knows, maybe I've even motivated someone better than myself as well. Thanks to the unique training environment we've even started our own small sprint group (with Mr Jean in charge). Not that we are the fastest boys in town (Mr L is an exception though, he is actually one of the fastest in town and in the country), but we're improving despite our relatively old age.

What most of the people at Olympiatoppen has got in common is the genuine interest in exercising and sports, no matter what level they're on. There are exceptions to the latter as well though. You have also some people at OLT that train very little, or very inefficient, and seemingly has done so most of their lives. They are the minority though, but they as well used to be welcomed at the gym that used to be for everyone.

One of the key qualities that I've appreciated at the gym is that we've all been the same, no matter accomplishments. Being a gold medallist from the Olympics, a prime minister, or a Mr NoOne didn't seem to matter at Olympiatoppen. It was only "we" and not "us" and "them". After all, in the end we are all just people, no matter what we've done or achieved in life.

While I've been at Olympiatoppen I don't think I've ever been in the way for any of the top athletes. And as far as I know I've never bothered any of them with talks either. I believe I'm quite good at taking hints and knowing what's appropriate to do and what's not. I've always been aware that Olympiatoppen, or Toppidrettssenteret, is not the normal gym, but I have however been able to be myself there and believed there was enough headroom for everyone.

Two years ago was the first time I noticed something were about to change. A friend of mine went to buy a membership at the gym. While doing so she was informed that one part of the gym, the area for core exercise, would soon be restricted to members of the national teams, sponsored athletes and employees at Olympiatoppen. As I spent much time in that area I found that striking, and went and spoke to the person in charge of the gym. I was told that this was a result of "us" (none top athletes) making a mess in that area, not tiding up after ourselves, and several of the instructors being annoyed with this. How some had identified the source of mess being "us" I'm not sure of. An immediate close down of this area didn't happen though, and I did continue doing my exercises there, and always making sure I tidied up after myself (not that I hadn't done that earlier either).

Early this year, if I remember correctly, the gym at Olympiatoppen stopped taking on board new members. A decision that I supported. It's wise not selling unlimited number of subscriptions, like other gyms do. I also fully do understand that it is a problem if professional athletes are not able to do their workout when they come to Olympiatoppen. I've been told that this at times was a problem in the area with spinning bikes and treadmills.

OLT closes down several times a year due to different events being organised there.

The members at the gym are used to different events being organised, and the gym having to close down for normal activity now and then. The members know that OLT is not the average gym, so these are things taken into consideration before renewing a membership. If you want the average gym there are plenty of other alternatives around. When the gym is closed down for shorter periods the members don't get any compensation as a result. I know that several dislikes this. However that as well is fine by me, as long it's only a few days a year. Most of us at OLT love the place, and we want to stay there despite not everything being completely fair from a customer point of view.

Pre camp for the Olympics.

"Welcome back in August", but are the paying members really welcomed back at all?

This spring, one of our most successful athletes through all times, Andreas Thorkildsen, made an interview with TV2. In the interview Thorkildsen made a clear distinction in between "us" and "them" and stated that he was very satisfied that people like "us" were not allowed at the gym during the pre camp period before the London 2012 Olympics. I agree with Thorkildsen on this point. I think that it is fair that that Olympiatoppen is only available for top athletes like Thorkildsen himself during pre camp. I understand that it is convenient making a camp there, which will facilitate many of the needs the athletes may have, where they all can mingle and get to know each other. However, Olympiatoppen could have made a deal with some other gym, or gyms, in town, for finding alternative solutions for their paying customers. That would have been nothing but fair. And what is the idea of turning the entire place into a fortress? It looks more than a military camp than a pre camp for the Olympics.

src: tv2.no

However Thorkildsen went further, and said he wanted the gym closed for "us" all year long. Without "us" at the gym it would be another intensity while training, he stated. Thorkildsen has this year spent much of his time at a Olympic training centre in San Diego, USA. A centre where only top athletes like Thorkildsen himself could train. Not that this seem to have improved his results this year though, neither at Bislett nor during the European Championships. However, the Olympics is still to come, and that is the number one goal for the man that won gold both in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Assumingly his recent training with only like-minded athletes will lead to another gold medal in London.

Andreas Thorkildsen, doesn't like photographers nor training with mediocre people (photo: Scanpix - src: dagbladet.no)

There is no doubt that Thorkildsen, as one of the most successful athletes in Norway, has a fair bit of influence on what is going on at Olympiatoppen. But most likely there are more than just him being positive to the idea of a "top athletes only" gym. I've been told that Finn Aamodt is for a "restricted gym" as well, and according to sources it has been a goal to kick "us" out of there for years. The only reason we've made it this long seems to be the fact that the membership fees are generating millions of kroner each year. Money that Olympiatioppen need, and has so far not been able to get as extra funding from the government.

The resemblance with a fortress is striking.

Fortress Olympiatoppen.

The entrance to the sacred area.

Accredited only.

Olympiatoppen's attitude to their own clients are for sure affecting the situation at the gym, and how they act towards their paying members. The example of closing down the gym for a month without even looking into alternative deals for their clients is quite symptomatic in the way they operate. No normal commercial company could ever have treated their customers the same way as Olympiatoppen do. Olympiatoppen don't really want their paying clients around, on the other hand the paying clients really want to stay. And there you do have a dilemma.

The core area of the gym is no longer accessible to all members.

Olympiatoppen has already started with restrictions that effects the paying members, and doing so without reducing the cost of training. The core area of the gym is no longer available, and this autumn the entire gym will be restricted in between 0900 and 1600. The gym is normally quite crowded in between 09 and 11, however from 11 till 16 there are not many people around. Except for Thorkildsen that often exercise at those times. I guess there was no coincidence why those times where chosen. From next year the rumours says that the gym will close down for good, for everyone but athletes on the national teams, and those being sponsored by Olympiatoppen.

To me it seems like Olympiatoppen not even has thought through who their clients really are, except for their top athletes. The average member of that gym is very different to an average member of another gym. There are for example many active athletes, on a national very high level. There are people being very good and promising, however maybe just outside the criteria required for getting a sponsorship. And there are many retired athletes, with great knowledge in training. People that easily share their wisdom with upcoming and rising stars. These people will be kicked out as well. The unique environment will be changed, and I'm not sure if that is for the better for Olympiatoppen nor the athletes that will stay put there.

In stead of thinking defensive, like Olympiatoppen do, why don't they turn the entire situation upside down? In stead of thinking limits, why not think limitlessness? If space is a problem why not expand? Build a larger gym. The market is there. People want to train at the gym. It's not just the gym itself that is great, it is the location as well. Being situated at the main entrance into Nordmarka, next to one of Oslo's biggest parking area, it's an attractive place for people to drop by. In stead of turning to the government, asking for more money, why not think how to generate more money themselves? Money they could use on their athletes, in their chase for gold medals. Because in the end medals are the only thing that seems to count for Olympiatoppen.

11 comments:

  1. You certainly made your point dude! Vi ses vel på Domus til høsten da ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ja, om jeg ikke løper 400m på 46-tallet så er det nok fare for at jeg snart må finne et nytt sted å trene. Bare dumt det ikke finnes noen steder i byen som er i nærheten av å kunne måle seg med "Toppern".

      Delete
  2. Nice write-up, bro. Hadde aldri hørt om Thorkildsen før jeg leste om ham her, men det sier ikke så mye - usually don't care too much about javelin throwers.

    I don't like this dude. In fact, hope he gets his ass kicked in London and then blames it on improper training conditions at Olympiatoppen.

    Finally, can we have an open and honest debate on whether or not "throwing a javelin" is something to brag about? I know you fools love to harpoon whales, but throwing a javelin? Really? Can this fool even claim to be an athlete? I say leave Andreas in K-sand and send Frode to London. Heia Norge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They could have sent me as a spectator and I would do my best in cheering. As an athlete I reckon Thorkildsen is a slightly safer card to bet on.

      Delete
  3. Kanskje Olympiatoppen synes det er demoraliserende at en halvgammel supermosjonist i badebukse løper fletta av den norske eliten på 400 meter?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nuvel, jeg er ca 11 sekunder fra å løpe fletta av Norgeseliten på 400m. Så det skjer ikke i år i hvertfall.

      Delete
  4. Man, you sound bitter. You've had a good run. On Olympiatoppen's website the following is written, "Olympiatoppen har det operative ansvar og myndighet til å utvikle norsk toppidrett, og et helhetlig ansvar for resultatene i norsk toppidrett." They're not running a normal gym for Ola Nordmann, and nor should they. I'd rather train outside anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some might mistake me for an old and bitter man, however bitter is not at all the word that I myself would use describing my feelings in this case. I'm sad though. I think I've made it very clear in the text above how unique the gym at Olympiatoppen is. I'm very far from being the only person at the gym with that opinion.

      I believe that our elite athletes should be able to do their training program when they enter the gym. If the gym is too crowded it is a problem for them. Then something will have to be done. I support all reasonable measurements for achieving a good place for "our" athletes. However there is so much more to this case than just that.

      For the last 20 years the gym at Olympiatoppen has been a place for our best athletes, our up and coming stars, and those of us who are neither stars nor up and coming. In earlier years this mixture did not seem to be such a problem. The major change recently is that several forces at Olympiatoppen clearly want to completely separate the top athletes from "Average Joe". I do not think that will lead to better results for the athletes, nor a better environment at the gym. One reason for this is that many of the people that then will be thrown out of the gym are important resources, with amongst other things, great knowledge in sports and training.

      I might see you soon, in a gym "outside" as well. However, I will still ask the question: "Will closing the gym down for us lead to positive development of Norwegian top-level athletics?"

      Delete
  5. *** Ytterligere informasjon om hva som skjer på OLT ***
    Utrolig bra at flere av mediene nå tar tak i dette!


    Endring i åpningstider blir offentliggjort:
    http://morphogenetically.blogspot.com/2012/08/olt-news-part-2.html

    Lukkes for folk flest (VG+):
    Norges gullhåp får endelig oppfylt sitt ønske om å løfte vekter i fred for alminnelige trimmere i Olympiatoppens treningsrom på toppidrettssenteret.
    http://pluss.vg.no/2012/08/18/928/928_20264679

    Kaster ut gymnasene fra Toppidrettssenteret (VG+):
    Elevene ved toppidrettsgymnasene NTG og Wang har kunnet trene i Olympiatoppens lokaler i en årrekke. Nå må de ut.
    http://pluss.vg.no/2012/08/19/929/929_20264974

    Forstår ikke Aambøs nye policy (VG+):
    Som elev ved Wang brukte fektekometen Bartosz Piasecki (25) to-tre dager i uken på å trene på Toppidrettssenteret. Han forstår ikke hvorfor Olympiatoppen nå stenger for idrettsgymnasene.
    http://pluss.vg.no/2012/08/21/932/932_20265492

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tåler ikke en smell til (vg.no):
      Andreas Thorkildsen (30) kan vinne sitt tredje OL-gull på rad, men han kan også gå på sin tredje mesterskapssmell på rad.
      http://vgsporten.vg.no/2012/08/08/taler-ikke-en-smell-til/

      Delete
    2. *** Other related posts ***

      Mr Mosjonist:
      http://www.chronicles.no/2012/07/mr-mosjonist.html

      Det Aller helligste (DAH)
      http://www.chronicles.no/2012/07/det-aller-helligste.html

      Closed sauna and closed on the 11th of August:
      http://morphogenetically.blogspot.com/2012/08/olt-news-part-1.html

      Now it is official, gym closed in between 9 and 16:
      http://morphogenetically.blogspot.com/2012/08/olt-news-part-2.html

      Delete

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