Year in Review – Top Stories of 2018 #4
Year in Review highlights the most significant news stories of 2018 in Iceland. Part 4 covers October through December.
Iceland hosted some 6,000 NATO personnel in October as part of Trident Juncture 2018, the organisation’s largest exercise in recent years. Not everyone was happy about NATO’s presence on Icelandic soil. Dozens of demonstrators showed up in Þjórsárdalur to protest army exercises, including Left Green Movement MP Kolbeinn Óttarsson Proppé. Meanwhile, troops stationed in Reykjavík harbour drank at least a couple of bars dry. When beer ran out at Sæta Svínið and American Bar, owners made an emergency call to Ölgerðin Brewery, who transported 100 additional kegs downtown. “They were hardworking, the dear boys,” remarked a brewery employee when asked about the military invasion.
A new sculpture that was installed in Tjörnin pond in downtown Reykjavík raised more than a few eyebrows for its resemblance to a phallus. Artist Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir acknowledged the similarity, but said it wasn’t the original point of the work, which was meant to celebrate Iceland’s 100-year anniversary of sovereignty. The work, titled Hafpulsan in Icelandic and translated as “The Little Mersausage” by some, is “a hot dog that is sitting like a mermaid on a little bread roll out in the pond,” explained Steinunn. The artwork met an untimely fate in early December, when it was decapitated. It remains unclear whether the destruction was the work of vandals or simply strong winds.
Thomas Møller Olsen’s sentence of 19 years in prison was confirmed at the Land’s Court in November. Thomas was sentenced for the murder of Birna Brjánsdóttir on January 14, 2017, as well as for drug smuggling. He had appealed the sentence, pleading his innocence and claiming his shipmate Nikolaj Olsen was responsible for the murder. Thomas’ attorney Björgvin Jónsson stated his defendant may yet appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Iceland.
The bodies of two Icelandic mountaineers who died on an expedition in Nepal in 1988 were discovered just over 30 years later by an American climber. Kristinn Rúnarsson and Þorsteinn Guðjónsson died on an expedition up Mount Pumori, 7,161m (23, 494ft), in October of 1988. The two climbers were 27 years old. Icelandic mountaineer Leifur Örn Sveinsson of Icelandic Mountain Guides led an expedition to retrieve the bodies, which were cremated in Nepal later that month.
The nation reacted in shock when a recording of six MPs revealed them making sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about their colleagues at a Reykjavík bar in late November. The recording, first submitted anonymously to media, made headlines internationally and led to public protest in Iceland. The individual responsible for the recording, Bára Halldórsdóttir, eventually came forward and could face a lawsuit from the MPs, who say she violated their right to privacy. One poll conducted shortly after the event found up to 91% of Icelanders wanted the MPs to resign.
Icelandic low-cost airline WOW air had been making headlines throughout the fall, as their financial struggles and seemingly desperate search for investors came to light. Icelandair had also been facing difficulties due to rising fuel costs and international competition. As the two airlines are responsible for transporting over 80% of all passengers to Iceland, concerns arose as to what would happen to the tourism industry if WOW air went bankrupt. In early November, Icelandair Group announced they had signed a deal to takeover WOW air. The merger was dropped just weeks later, however, when it became clear WOW would not be able to fulfill the conditions required by the purchase agreement. WOW has since confirmed another investor, Indigo Partners, known for operating low-cost airlines such as Wizz Air. The airline has rid themselves of nearly half their jets and laid off over 300 employees, with further downsizing likely in the new year.