In a book published in Norway on April 12, John Northug – Petter Northug’s father and manager – says he has never witnessed a more severe invasion of privacy than what he saw when the Norwegian government-supported TV station NRK transmitted Northug’s victory tears from the finish line at 2011 World Championships in Holmenkollen in February.
Sunday February 27, 2011, Petter Northug became the World Champion of the 30K mass start pursuit. It was Northug’s first World Championship gold medal in Holmenkollen. National team head coach Morten aa Djupvik was equipped with a miniature microphone from NRK when he went over to Northug in the paddock. The world Champion was crying, while his dad John displayed his joy on live on VGTV from the stands.
Already the next day John Northug announced to the Norwegian online newspaper VG Nett that he was upset with the national TV station’s handling of the situation. In a book launched this week titled “Gull og Grønne Svensker” (literal translation: “Gold and Green Swedes”) written by Thorkild Gundersen, a journalist writing for the men’s magazine “Vi Menn” (translation: “Us Men”), the manager/dad is lashing out at the media and NRK in particular.
“This is exactly what we’ve worked so hard at – protecting him the first seconds after he crosses the finish line, allowing him some privacy and staying out of his intimate zone right after the race is over. Now, I don’t think this incident damaged Petter’s image, but at the same time, I think NRK is going far across the line by broadcasting the sound track along with the images, and showing it on TV at the same time as they filmed Petter’s reaction to the broadcast from the couch in the TV studio. This is about the principle of privacy,” John Northug says in the book.
Petter Northug was shown the footage of himself on the couch while he was in the studio with NRK reporter Espen Graff a few hours later, without knowing that NRK filmed him crying.
“When I was sitting there on the couch I didn’t particularly enjoy the footage and the sound track. But it wasn’t something that made me mad at NRK, I was just so incredibly happy over the gold medal that I gladly handled seeing myself cry on TV,” Petter Northug said in the book.
“The inconvenience of seeing myself sob on TV was something I just decided to forgive and forget. There was so much more left of the Championships and I just thought it would be stupid to spend any energy on being annoyed,” he explained.
However, John Northug experienced the episode as extremely invasive.
“It felt like an extreme invasion of privacy as it was happening. And to put it bluntly: After dealing with ‘Se og Hør’ (Ed. Norway’s Number 1 celebrity magazine) trailing our footsteps for five years, we’ve become used to a fair amount of media presence, but nothing they have done has been anywhere close to this,” John Northug said.
Norwegian Ski Association’s media spokesman Otto Ulseth explained that he had a stern discussion with Norwegian national coach Morten Aa Djupvik after this incident.
“Morten apologized to Petter immediately after we had talked,” Ulseth said to VG.
NRK sports editor Rune Haug also apologized.
“We understand the issue John Northug brought up, and we recognize that we used bad judgment in this case by not informing Petter Northug about what he would see from the couch in the TV studio that night. I can understand that Petter felt a little caught off guard,” Haug said to VG.
Norway’s national team director Åge Skinstad explained that in general, they are careful about using microphones around the racers.
“This is an incident we quickly put behind us. The microphone Morten was wearing was the last thing he was thinking about when he ran out to greet Petter in the paddock after the race,” Skinstad recalled.
From VG.no, April 12, 2011 By Camilla Vesteng, translation by Inge Scheve
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.