Twenty years ago, it was a bit of a hectic day in Norway. Up in Lillehammer, a town of about 25,000 people, the Winter Olympics began with the usual lavish two hour opening ceremony. The games would go on for the next two weeks and feature every kind of sport that requires some kind of low-friction, low-temperature surface to generate hilarious pratfalls. Sadly for this blog post, this was not the Olympics of Cool Runnings, nor was it the hour for Eddie the Eagle to make his mark on the world. The biggest drama on ice or snow was probably the ongoing controversy surrounding the US skater Tonya Harding, which we've already covered in more than enough detail.
But back in Oslo, the capital of Norway, dirty work was afoot. Thieves broke into the National Gallery and made off with one of the four versions of Edvard Munch's world renowned painting The Scream (or Skrik in Norwegian). They left a note of thanks for the poor security; the painting had been moved as part of an exhibition celebrating the Olympics, and wasn't being kept quite as safely as usual. A ransom demand for $1m was sent by the culprits in March, but the Norwegian government said no. Since Austin Powers had not yet been made, no one was able to make an ironic reference to this at the time. I shall now rectify this oversight:
The painting was eventually recovered safe and sound, after a bit of creative skulduggery from the Metropolitan Police (because apparently the Norwegians just aren't as devious as we are - bless). The sordid tale is told in this little documentary snippet:
This was not the last time that one of the four Scream paintings would be stolen; another went walkies from the Munch Museum (also in Oslo) in 2004, before being recovered in 2006. Art theft is, of course, a very serious issue, although one that presents a major problem for the thieves as a painting expensive enough to really be worth stealing is probably too well known to be sold on even the black market. The most recent sale of one of the versions of The Scream netted $120m. Even Dr. Evil would be impressed by that.
(I haven't mentioned the actual painting itself all that much - here's a BBC documentary if you want to know more about why the hell we all have this image imprinted on our brains).
UPDATE: Hey, the BBC thinks this is an interesting story too! The BBC News website has a little piece on it, interviewing one of the detectives who helped recover the painting. Fun stuff.