Walt Disney World can be an overwhelming experience of sights, sounds, and smells—even for the most seasoned guests. With so much to see and do, it’s easy to overlook those unique touches that are part of the Walt Disney World story.
At the Walt Disney World Resort there are few sculptures that celebrate the life of someone throughout history. Many guests are familiar with the statues of Walt and Roy Disney, and there are additional sculptures of beloved Disney characters. But do you know the story behind the lesser-known sculpture of Grete Waitz?
At the Norway pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, tucked between the Stave Church and the outside seating area, there stands a life-size sculpture that is cast in bronze. The figure is Grete Waitz, famed Norwegian Olympic marathoner, nine-time winner of the New York City Marathon, and first woman in history to run a marathon in less than two hours and 30 minutes. Born in Oslo, Norway, Waitz is a beloved sporting legend in her home country as well around the world.
The statue at the Norway pavilion portrays Waitz in mid-stride, a figure of grace and strength. Sculpted by Norwegian artist Nils Aas, the statue at Epcot’s Norway pavilion was presented to Walt Disney World by the Foundation for the Promotion of Athletics in Norway and is a duplicate of one that stands outside Bislett Stadium in Oslo, Norway. Following her retirement, Grete Waitz remained active as a spokesperson for marathon runners, particularly women and physically challenged athletes. She died of cancer at age 57 in 2011.
During the Walt Disney World Marathon, thousands of runners pass by the Norway pavilion and the statue of Grete Waitz in the final mile of their long distance journey. I can’t think of a better way for runners to pay tribute to the legacy of one of the greatest marathon runners of all time.
There is so much to discover and learn at Walt Disney World! So keep your eyes and ears ready!
(Logo property of WDW Radio. Photo from the author’s personal collection.)
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