Swedish hockey heroes “could lose Olympic gold”

Just four days after the Swedish ice hockey team's stunning achievement in the Winter Olympics, the sweet smell of success has been overshadowed by a bitter dispute which could result in the team's disqualification.

The Swedish Olympic Committee (SOC) is threatening to sue the Swedish Ice Hockey Association over the celebrations in Stockholm’s Medborgarplatsen which, says the SOC, broke sponsorship regulations.

“This is a serious infringement,” said the SOC’s chairman Stefan Lindeberg to Svenska Dagbladet.

The SOC says that the triumphant hockey team was still under its Olympic obligations. But at the Medborgarplatsen party, where 25,000 fans turned up to cheer on the gold medal winners, the sponsors of the Swedish Olympic team were nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the logos of Svenska Spel and Norwegian bank DnB NOR, sponsors of the Swedish national hockey team, were shown.

“I was dismayed when I saw that the hockey association’s own sponsors were on view there, despite the fact that that broke the rules,” said Lindeberg.

According to the SOC, the Olympic sponsors were to have been on display in connection with team members until March 1st.

Now the SOC is threatening legal action against Swedish Ice Hockey Association – but the consequences could be more than financial, says the committee’s lawyer, Björn Rosengren.

“The ultimate consequence of the Hockey Association’s actions at the welcoming party is that the team is disqualified,” Rosengren told SvD.

But the Swedish Ice Hockey Association says it has done nothing wrong.

“Since it was a tribute to the hockey team it was natural for us to show our partners,” said the Hockey Association’s chairman Christer Englund.

“Even if the International Olympic Committee has such rules we as an association haven’t signed any agreement. We are only under the obligations of the IOC’s rules during the Olympics themselves.”

Englund said that the Hockey Association is not prepared to compensate the Swedish Olympic Committee for any lost sponsorship revenue.

He added that he doubted that the Olympic organisation would actually go so far as to sue one of its own sporting associations. But the hockey team’s decision to breeze through the official Olympic homecoming at Arlanda airport in favour of the party at Medborgarplatsen has soured relations with the other athletes.

“The hockey association has shown no respect for the other associations,” said Annette Norberg, gold medal winner in the curling, to Aftonbladet.

“I think their actions were small-minded,” she said.

However, after initial reports on Thursday caused dismay among Swedish sports fans, the SOC insisted that it would do “everything so Tre Kronor does not risk losing its gold medals.”

The committee pointed out however that “SOC does not have the last say in this question … It is the IOC that has the right to decide.”

Stefan Lindeberg meanwhile acknowledged that “our sponsors have reacted negatively.”

“We will meet with the ice hockey federation next week,” he said, adding that the organization might be asked to pay compensation to the Olympic sponsors.

Discuss this topic!

For members


The year Sweden organized the Olympics and defied expectations

Stockholm Olympic Stadium defied those who said Sweden wasn't advanced enough to host the Olympic Games in 1912, and has survived to become the world's oldest Olympic stadium actively in use.

The year Sweden organized the Olympics and defied expectations
Stockholm's Olympic Stadium as it used to look. Photo: Bertil Norberg/TT

This article was written for Members of The Local. Read more articles for Members here.

Taking inspiration from the medieval city wall of Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland, Swedish architect and athlete Torben Grut designed a stadium for the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm that would stand as a fortress of athleticism.

His success was both immediate and enduring, and the now-historic stadium has lived up to its impressive façade for more than a century, hosting countless sporting and cultural events, witnessing more than 80 athletic world records, surviving a bombing, and simply reminding the world of its important place in Olympic history.

Initially, however, the outlook for both the stadium and the Stockholm Olympics – the fifth modern Olympic games – was far from promising. As historian Therese Nordlund Edvinsson wrote in a 2014 article in The International Journal of the History of Sport, despite Sweden's “modest ambitions” for the games, “critics argued that the country was too undeveloped to arrange a major sport event”.


Djurgården versus AIK in 1915 at Stockholm Stadium. Photo: TT

The original plan for the stadium was an accordingly modest – and temporary – whitewashed wooden structure. The decision to make it permanent was likely a relief to Grut, whose other designs included Solliden Palace, the summer residence of the Swedish royal family on the island of Öland. Though still relatively small, with an original seating capacity of around 20,000, the completed stadium became a model for subsequent Olympic stadiums. Likewise, and in defiance of the critics, the Stockholm Olympic Games were considered a great success.  

In a 2012 article entitled, “Stockholm 1912 set the gold standard for the modern Olympics,” in the British newspaper The Guardian, sports journalist Frank Keating wrote, “Stockholm's 1912 Games are still considered standard-setting for Olympic decades to come. Women's competition was allowed for swimming and diving, while men's boxing was banned: and on the track photo-finish electronic-timing was introduced as a back-up to the hand-held judges' stopwatch.” It was also, he explained, “the last Olympics where any individual could just turn up and hope to enter a competition”.


One of the numerous concerts organized at the Stockholm Stadium. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Over the years, the appearance of Stockholm Olympic Stadium has changed little, and the seating capacity has even been reduced. In 2011 and 2012, the stadium underwent its only major renovation in preparation for its centenary. Nonetheless, it has been an incredibly adaptable venue, serving for many years as home to Swedish football team Djurgårdens IF, and accommodating a wide variety of sporting and cultural events – from ice hockey to American football and from Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti to Swedish DJ Avicii. It is also where the Stockholm Marathon ends each year.

The stadium has also maintained a long and at times somewhat chequered connection to the Olympic Games. In 1956, for instance, the equestrian events of the Summer Olympics taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were hosted some 15,000 kilometres away in Stockholm Olympic Stadium due to animal quarantine restrictions in Australia. And in August 1997, as Stockholm vied to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, the stadium was one of several sites in Sweden bombed or set alight by Swedish far-right extremists opposed to Sweden hosting the games.

READ ALSO: Polls suggest Italians much more enthusiastic about Olympic bid than Swedes

Although modern stadiums designed or used for the Summer Olympics now typically seat three to four times more people than Stockholm Olympic Stadium did in 1912, the historic venue still has a chance of returning to its Olympic origins. If Stockholm-Åre is selected to host the Winter Olympics in 2026, the snowboarding competitions are slated to take place in the landmark stadium, neatly tying together 114 years of Olympic history.

Victoria Martínez is an American historical researcher, writer and author of three historical non-fiction books. She lives in Småland county, Sweden, with her Spanish husband and their two children.