Majority opposes Olympics in Oslo

Local opposition to organizing a Winter Olympics in Oslo in 2022 has increased markedly during the summer, according to a new public opinion poll. Only 36.6 percent of Oslo residents support hosting an Olympics, while 57.3 percent say they’ll vote against the proposal at a referendum on September 8-9.

Oslo officials still need to convince Oslo residents that it's a good idea to spend at least NOK 30 billion (more than USD 5 billion) to host a Winter Olympics in 2022. Here, an artist's rendition of a ski race on a downtown street. PHOTO: Oslo2022/Oslo Kommune

Oslo officials don’t seem to have convinced local residents that it’s a good idea to spend at least NOK 30 billion (more than USD 5 billion) to host a Winter Olympics in 2022. PHOTO: Oslo2022/Oslo Kommune

The remainder, 6.1 percent, is undecided, but the support for an Olympics is so low that those unsure look unlikely to sway the vote, given poll results. The poll was conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

The powerful sports bureaucrats, politicians, athletes and, not least, Gerhard Heiberg of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who’ve been pushing for an Olympics in Oslo aren’t giving up, though. “We need to have public meetings, we need to get the media, especially NRK and Aftenposten, with us,” Heiberg told NRK when presented with the figures on Wednesday.

The city has plans to host a series of what it calls “information meetings” hosted by the city-funded organization Oslo2022, which already has spent millions planning an Olympics. The meetings will be held on August 27 at the Deichmanske Library at Majorstuen, on August 29 at the main Deichmanske Library downtown and on Tuesday September 3 at the Deichmanske Library in Furuset, all from 4:30pm to 6pm.

Organizers and boosters of the Olympics will lay out their plans, but it seems a majority already has little faith in the project. Its costs are the biggest hindrance, with officials budgeting NOK 30 billion at this point. Given the huge budget overruns at earlier projects such as the new Holmenkollen Ski Jump and the refurbishment of Bislett Stadium, there’s a risk that budget won’t be held either, and it’s viewed as a huge amount as it is. Many Oslo residents fear an Olympics will come at the expense of more pressing needs, such as nursing homes, health care, schools and even community sports facilities.

“We can’t afford this,” one passerby emphatically told Inge Andersen, secretary general of the national athletics federation (Idrettsforbundet), when Andersen was out campaigning for the Olympics in downtown Oslo on Wednesday. “Come down to earth!” he exclaimed as he tore up the promotional flyer Andersen had given him. Another woman even challenged him over the cost of the promotional Olympics T-shirt he was wearing: “Who paid for that?” she asked. He told her the federation had, not the city.

On a nationwide basis, only 38 percent of Norwegians who were questioned support an Olympics in Oslo. The support has dwindled markedly from earlier surveys, when 46 percent backed the Games and 45 percent were opposed. Residents of Northern Norway are most opposed, with 72 percent saying they don’t want an Olympics in Oslo and only 24 percent in favour. In Western Norway, 58 percent were opposed and 33 percent in favour.

Younger voters were more positive than older residents, with 66 percent of those over 50 years of age opposed. Those with higher education were also far more negative (62 percent) than those with less education (41 percent).

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund