Sports leaders want Olympics in Oslo

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Cheering crowds and Norwegians out in front at last winter’s Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo were all it took for local sports bureaucrats and civic boosters to start plotting their next big project: Attracting the Winter Olympics to Oslo in 2022. Rival host sites in Norway are already protesting.

Enthusiastic spectators and Norwegian success at last winter's skiing world championships in Oslo have cleared the way for a new Olympic effort. PHOTO: Tore Afdal / Oslo 2011

Sverre Seeberg, president of the Norwegian Ski Association, reported on Monday that all seven organizations involved in winter sports had agreed that Norway should mount a bid for the Winter Olympics 10 years from now and that the main venue should be Oslo.

“In the course of this autumn, we must get positive feedback from the City of Oslo and the state if this has any realistic possibility of succeeding,” Seeberg told reporters. He said that a completed application with a state guarantee must be put forward to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by the end of 2013 at the latest.

Consultants and marketing experts are likely already rubbing their hands with glee over the lucrative contracts that may come their way during the process, as sports, business and promotional interests start drumming up political support for an Olympic bid. They have a good starting point, according to a public opinion poll conducted just after last winter’s World Championships when Norway swept the medals race: 60 percent of those responding claimed they supported the idea of a Winter Olympics in Oslo.

IOC member planted the seeds
Norway’s longtime member of the IOC, Gerhard Heiberg, also started boosting the idea before the world championships began and his local counterparts quickly followed through. That bodes well for those who think it’s a good idea for the state to invest hundreds of millions in new facilities and a three-week party. Heiberg and his fellow IOC members, meanwhile, need financially solid organizers to keep the Olympics going at a time when the event has become wildly expensive and a global debt crisis means many governments have other priorities. The IOC may well be grateful for interest from affluent countries willing to take on the huge project.

Even in wealthy, sports-oriented Norway there are voices of concern from those who think it’s more important to spend the billions an Olympics would cost on better schools or roads or other public projects. And then there are the would-be organizers in others cities, like Tromsø, who don’t like being aced out of the competition even before it begins. Tromsø officials were already on national radio in Norway on Tuesday airing their objections. A bid by Tromsø to host an Olympics failed badly a few years ago, though, so Seeberg and his colleagues seem to firmly base their bid on Oslo or nothing.

Some sporting events would be held outside the capital, with downhill skiing and bobsled competition, for example, taking place in and around Lillehammer at Kvitfjell and Hafjell, which are famous for putting on an Olympics in 1994 that the late IOC chairman Antonio Samaranch called “the best ever.” Vikersund, southwest of Oslo and known for its ski-flying facilities, would also be a likely venue, with ice hockey matches held in Oslo, Lørenskog, Asker and Østfold, southeast of the capital.

Norway’s national sports federation doesn’t have any cost estimates yet. Its president, Børre Rognlien, nonetheless told reporters he has “informally” aired the Olympic plans with both state and city politicians and says their first reactions were positive. The first formal approaches will be made after a federation board meeting on October 3.

Norwegian organizers are widely viewed as being good at putting on large-scale winter sports events and Norwegians in general are known for being enthusiastic spectators and volunteers. This winter will bring the snowboarding world championships at Tryvann in Oslo, now called Oslo Vinterpark.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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