"Give us back the winter!"

Children were in focus during the official Norwegian opening of the International Polar Year. Waving homemade colourful banners 3000 children chanted "Give us back the winter!" "We need you," replied Crown Prince Haakon in his opening speech. Photo: Lise Åserud, Scanpix
Crown Prince Haakon opened the Norwegian part of the International Polar year. "We need you," he told the children. "Maybe some of you will grow up to be polar scientists and try to find the answers to complicated scientific questions," he wondered.

"We are scared that Norway will be totally flooded and that there will be no more winters," some of the children said. "Summer is great. But we will not appreciate it as much if there is no real winter!"

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wants to spread polar knowledge broadly: "Knowledge about the polar areas must reach children as well as university students. Through this big effort the Government wishes to recruit more talents to a traditional Norwegian expert area, polar science."

The director of the Research Council of Norway, Arvid Hallén, also participated in the opening event: "This is not just an investment in broad international research cooperation, but there are also great expectations when it comes to communication. The fact that Norwegian researchers contribute to spreading their knowledge to the general public might lead to more young people opting for natural sciences," he said.

The Research Council of Norway has granted 288 million NOK for polar research in the period 2007-2010, distributed on 26 projects. This is extraordinary funding on top of grants for already existing polar research, which makes Norway one of the largest contributors to the International Polar Year.

Also Finland and Sweden celebrated the opening of the Polar Year. In Finland researchers met in Rovaniemi, and in Northern Sweden a giant balloon was released outside a hotel carved from blocks of ice.