Oslo, December 10 -- President Obama, who arrived in Norway today with the first lady, was greeted by a mixed response. The Nobel Peace Prize he is about to get has been a contentious issue since it was announced.
Though he was cordial as ever, the White House's decision to cut down on a few events that the Peace Prize winner is supposed to attend has made many Norwegians unhappy. There is a consensus among people that the shortened visit by the U.S. president is a mark of disrespect towards their culture and traditions.
Discontent amongst the crowd
Among the events the president is not going to attend are a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, a children's event meant to promote peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition held in his honor at the Nobel peace centre.
But what has hurt the people most is his refusal to indulge the King of Norway by not having lunch with him.
VG, a regular tabloid in Norway, held a public opinion poll. The results showed that 44 percent of Norwegians believed that Obama was being rude to the people and the monarchy by refusing the invitation with King Herald, while 34 percent believed that it was all right.
Siv Jensen, the leader of the largest party in opposition, the Populist Progress Party, commented by saying that “Of all the things he is canceling, I think the worst is canceling the lunch with the King. This is a central part of our government system. He should respect the monarchy."
But the Norwegian Peace Committee supported Obama by saying that they were always aware of the exhaustive list of things that a prize winner had to do, and that the president had a country to run rather than sight-seeing to do.
"We always knew that there were too many events in the program. Obama has to govern the US and we were told early on that he could not commit to all of them," said Geir Lundestad, secretary of the committee.
The president will be in Oslo for 26 hours, and will have a meeting with the five member panel that decided to award him the peace prize.
The president’s stay will also include meeting Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja. After the introductions, Obama will proceed to receive his Nobel Prize. Post that, he will be attending an award banquet in the evening.
The most awaited part of the ceremony is going to be his acceptance speech. The atmosphere is tense, since no one can escape the irony of the situation as Obama just sent 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and is receiving a Nobel Peace Prize. Also, the U.S. is at war with two countries currently.
The city of Oslo has heightened security today as 2,000 officers, along with 200 from U.S. Security staff, are on duty.
There will be more than 5000 peace activists protesting in Oslo against the war in Afghanistan.