Traditionally, the Nobel Peace Prize banquet is held in Stockholm every year on December 10.
The story of how the Nobel Peace awards came about is rather indicative of the man that they are named after: Alfred Nobel. Nobel was a Swedish scientist/chemist who found safer ways to manufacture explosives; he’s widely known for inventing dynamite and making it commercially available. In his mind, he saw his creation as a means of ending wars and by improving the manufacturing process behind explosives, he was making his factories safer for workers. He could not fathom the impact that this had on warfare around the world.
His discoveries made him a hated man. One French newspaper called him the merchant of death. He himself wrote (of himself): “Alfred Noble — pitiful creature, ought to have been suffocated by a humane physician when he made his howling entrance into this life.”
To make good on his life, he wrote into his will that he wanted his fortune used to establish prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace; and, as a caveat, each of these award winners had to be those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.
Nobel died on December 10, 1896 and his wish was fulfilled. The first Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony happened on the anniversary of his death on December 10, 1901.
Around Stockholm it’s easy to find buildings related to the ceremony or Alfred Nobel:
The yellow building on the left in the photo above is the Nobel Prize Museum in Gamla stan’s Stortorget. The museum is worth a wander. The thing that struck me about many of the Nobel Prize winners is that many are/were considered criminals in their own countries. I believe that society in general (whether conscious or not) selects against those who try to make change or be different, and a lot of bravery is needed to be true to your beliefs. The great thing about the Nobel Peace Prize is it validates those people who, for many years, are/were persecuted, jailed, and sometimes killed for their work.
The little yellow house in the photo above is Alfred Nobel’s house. In a rather interesting (and annoying) turn of events, for two weeks after visiting this part of Stockholm, I tested positive for Nitroglycerin in airport swab tests.
The large building with the green roof in the photo above is the Grand Hôtel where the Nobel laureates stay during the awards ceremonies; this was the original location of the award ceremonies. During one of my tours, the guide told us that the Grand Hôtel was the first hotel in Sweden to do something rather revolutionary for the hotel industry: change the sheets between guests.
Finally, the City Hall (Stadshuset) where the ceremonies are held every year. This place seems to swarm with people all the time. The likely contenders for this year’s award can be found here. Some of the stories are absolutely gut wrenching.