Costs, chief’s exit jeopardize ‘OL’

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UPDATED: Soaring costs tied to the still-new Holmenkollen Ski Jump, coupled with a major personnel change at the top of Norway’s Olympic sports bureaucracy, are sending up more red flags around Oslo’s bid to host a Winter Olympics in 2022. Now the leader of one of Norway’s largest political parties has said she’ll vote against an Olympics in Oslo, while others have been criticized for refusing to take a stand.

The cost of building Oslo's Holmenkollen Ski Jump ended up nearly four-times their initial budget estimate, and now the city will need to invest more than NOK 100 million more for its use in a Winter Olympics in 2022. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The cost of building Oslo’s Holmenkollen Ski Jump ended up nearly four-times the city’s initial budget estimate, and now the city will need to invest more than NOK 100 million more for its use in a Winter Olympics in 2022. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party that successfully pushed for a referendum on the issue, at least in Oslo, told reporters late Monday that she doesn’t think the billions needed to finance an Olympics are the right way to spend taxpayers’ money. Her stand against what Norwegians simply call “OL,” along with her support for a nationwide referendum, not just in Oslo, brought quick criticism from Norway’s top sports officials, while others have criticized leading Norwegian politicians for sweeping the OL issue under the rug.

The sudden replacement of Jarle Aambø as Norway’s athletics boss late last week, meanwhile, was a case of “hopeless timing,” claim others, and may further jeopardize Oslo’s efforts to mount an OL.

“Jarle has been a source of confidence,” Olympic rower Olaf Tufte told newspaper Aftenposten after his resignation as sports chief at Olympiatoppen, the national organization charged with the operational responsibility and authority to develop top athletes in Norway. “I think he’s done a good job.”

Other athletes from golfer Suzann Pettersen to biathlon star Ole Einar Bjørndalen expressed their gratitude and support for Aambø, who claimed on Friday he was stepping down voluntarily after 20 years. Most others believe he was forced to resign after Norway’s relatively poor showing at the Summer Olympics in London last year, with Tore Øvrebø quickly named as his replacement at least until the next Olympics in Sochi. In mid-September, Olympiatoppen announced, Aambø will be moved to another newly created position where he’ll work with what the national athletics association (Norges Idrettsforfund, NIF) said were “efforts to develop a performance culture.”

Top athletics boss Jarle Aambø (left), shown here with other sports bureaucrats, announced he was about to be replaced at a press conference Friday afternoon. PHOTO: Olympiatoppen

Top athletics boss Jarle Aambø (left), shown here with other sports bureaucrats, announced he was about to be replaced at a press conference Friday afternoon. PHOTO: Olympiatoppen

Andreas Selliaas, a sports blogger who formerly worked at NIF, said he thinks Aambø’s replacement can cause trouble for Oslo’s application to host the Winter Olympics, in addition to Norway’s performance in Sochi. “Power struggles and conflicts can leave the public negative towards an OL,” he told Aftenposten. He thinks Aambø has lost a power struggle within NIF, and that there will be reaction.

Meanwhile came news that Oslo’s Holmenkollen Ski Jump, which opened just two years ago after huge budget overruns, will need more than NOK 100 million in further investment if Oslo hosts the Olympics in 2022. It cost around NOK 2 billion, with Oslo taxpayers footing most of the bill, but will soon be outdated, reported Aftenposten.

Rebuilding the ski jump that had stood at Holmenkollen and been remodelled many times over the years was initially budgeted to cost around NOK 500 million when city officials won their bid to host the World Championships in 2011. By the time that competition rolled around, costs had soared to nearly NOK 2 billion and ongoing operating costs are high as well.

To be used in an Olympics in 2022, its technical infrastructure and lighting system will need to be upgraded, new snowmaking equipment will be needed, transportation routes will need to be expanded and, not least, security will need to be improved. An entirely new entrance for the public must be built east of the smaller Midtstubakken jump next to Holmenkollen.

All told, Oslo officials are estimating that Oslo2022 will cost around NOK 30 billion, although their track record for accurate budgeting is not good. “I think it’s hair-raising to spend so much money on this,” Anders Berg, a resident of Gamlebyen in Oslo, told Aftenposten. He and other city residents can vote in the referendum on the issue in conjunction with the upcoming parliamentary elections September 9.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • Tom Just Olsen

    Agree.
    Our Lillehammer Olympic games was supposed to cost 9 BNOK. The final bill was 21 BNOK. The same as all Norwegians paid in tax on their salaries in 1992. – An economical catastrophe – had it not been for oil money.