The Bislett stadion you see today is not the same one that witnessed some 75 world records being set in speed skating and, mainly, athletics, over the course of the 20th century.
Rebuilt in 2005, the Bislett had been a basic sports field since 1908, a sports ground since 1917 and a sports stadium since 1922, clubhouse, royal balcony and all.
The prime mover behind each development was champion speedskater Martinus Lørdahl, now honoured with a statue outside the stadium and an adjoining square named after him.
In these early years, the Bislett played second fiddle to the Frogner stadion in nearby Majorstuen. As well as speedskating, the Frogner was Norway’s main venue for football internationals until the Ullevaal was opened. While the Bislett staged a solitary game with Sweden in 1913, the Frogner accommodated several visits by Scandinavian neighbours, as well as Tsarist Russia and Hungary.
Major improvements in 1940 saw the Bislett supercede the Frogner in hosting top-class skating, including the Winter Olympics of 1952. By then the Ullevaal had become Norway’s main international venue, though Vålerenga made the Bislett their home ground from 1944 onwards.
Forever associated with the prestigious Bislett Games, and middle-distance world records for Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram in the 1980s, the stadium suffered gradual decay through the 1990s. Vålerenga abandoned it forever in 1999.
The complete rebuild of 2005 and Lyn Oslo’s long-running feud with the Norwegian FA over Ullevaal gave the Bislett a new lease of life. Briefly hosting Lyn from 2010, the Bislett became the club’s permanent home from 2014. A year later, the stadium hosted the 50th anniversary Bislett Games.
While Lyn still attract healthy numbers for lower-league football, the running track remains in place for high-profile athletics meets.
The Bislett has its own tram stop on the Nos.17 and 18 lines, six stops from central Stortorvet.
Three bars surround the roundabout alongside the stadium’s main entrance. The most suitable pre-match spot is the Store Stå, its terrace facing the entrance. Images of Usain Bolt, various other Olympic legends and the stadium through the ages decorate a cosy, pub-like interior, where flat-screen TVs show sport. Outside, Lyn fans gather over pints of Ringnes beer before strolling over to the stadium.
On the next corner, the Café Laundromat makes the Bislett the only football ground in Europe where you can get your socks washed and then go and watch a match opposite. But there’s more here than washing machines – most notably craft beers, plenty of them, chalked up on a big blackboard. Jumble-sale art and bookshelves lend a homely touch while the Laundromat’s right-on credentials (‘Laundry is the only thing to be separate by colour’) and friendly prices attract a student crowd.
Further along the crossroads, Patio is a standard restaurant used by fans for a half-time pint – it’s a few steps away from the stadium gates. Its terrace makes it a more attractive option in summer.
On the other side of the stadium, the Bislett Café & Bar on Bislettgata is currently under renovation.