Hopeful world champs arrive in Oslo
February 2, 2012
Holmenkollen’s arenas and the hills above Oslo are coming alive once again with the sound of skiers, snowboarders and cheering fans, as the first of two major international competitions gets underway. First out is the IBU World Cup Biathlon, to be followed by the World Snowboarding Championships next week at nearby Oslo Winterpark at Tryvann.
The biathlon (called skiskyting in Norwegian) World Cup at Holmenkollen (external link) was attracting the world’s elite in the sport that combines cross-country skiing and shooting. Norwegians have long ranked among the top biathlon athletes and organizers were hoping for another folkefest (people’s party) on the site of last year’s Nordic skiing world championships.
Events were to kick off with men’s and women’s sprint events on Thursday, pursuit events on Saturday and the mass start for both men and women on Sunday. Among the local heroes are biathlon stars and Olympic medalists like Ole Einar Bjørndalen and Tora Berger, plus Tarjei Bø, Ann Kristin Aafedt Flatland and Emil Hegle Svendsen.
Next week, the world’s top snowboarders will all but take over Oslo Winterpark at Tryvann, in the hills just behind Holmenkollen and sloping down to the valley known as Sørkedalen. New snowboarding facilities at the Winterpark’s Wyller Multiarena will host competition in a variety of events including slopestyle, halfpipe and quarterpipe. Around 240 riders from 30 countries were expected to take part and among the favorites are some Norwegians including Gjermund Bråten and Torstein Horgmo.
Cecilia Flatum, as president of the Norwegian Snowboard Association, has said that Oslo’s appointment as host city for the first World Snowboarding Championships (external link) run by snowboarders since 1999 was “a great vote of confidence to the Norwegian snowboard community.” As of mid-January, though, the event still hadn’t lined up a main sponsor in a market organizers described as “tough.”
Henning Andersen, chief of the world championship event that’s due to run from February 10-19, told newspaper Aftenposten recently that sponsors were committed “at lower levels” and that there’d been interest from potential main sponsors, “but they say they just don’t have the money.”
Others in the sponsor business suggested the price sought by the snowboarding event may have been too high. “The sponsor market hasn’t dried up, but many sponsors may think this is too expensive,” Jacob Lund, the former sponsor chief for Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, told Aftenposten. “The potential for profiling themselves is relatively limited and the snowboarders have many private sponsors. You’d have to dominate the arenas to get something for your money. When you don’t have a sponsor, it’s generally because the price is too high.”
The budget for the championships is around NOK 37 million, backed by the City of Oslo which has put up a guarantee of NOK 28 million. Andersen downplayed financial concerns, and organizers noted that the Norwegians have “a great deal of experience” in arranging such events including The Arctic Challenge.
Meanwhile, Norwegian sports bureaucrats and many local officials keep working on efforts to arrange another Winter Olympics in Norway, specifically in the Oslo area, but concerns also keep rising about the costs and whether the huge investment needed is worth it. Other non-winter sports may also suffer.
The head of the Norwegian athletics association won approval last fall to take the Olympic cause further to both the government and the City of Oslo. The politicians’ response till determine whether the process will continue towards seeking the Winter Olympics for 2022. The deadline for applying to the International Olympic Committee is in October 2013.
Organizers will need a state guarantee of as much as NOK 30 million (USD 5 billion) plus support from other sports branches. “Everyone loves a party, but someone has to pay,” Per Rune Eknes, president of the Norwegian swimming association, told Aftenposten. At a time when many local governments can’t afford to keep local pools filled with water and operating, he worries funding will dry up even more for other sports.
Less than half of Norwegians questioned in a recent public opinion poll supported a new Olympics, while 27 percent were opposed. The rest were unsure. And now Lillehammer, site of the successful Winter Olympics in 1994, is worrying about how to fund maintenance of all the facilities built for that event. The fund to finance costs and operations after their initial use 20 years ago is almost empty, and Lillehammer Mayor Espen Granberg Johnsen thinks it’s “unreasonable” for the local government to wind up with responsibility.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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