Oslo’s Olympic bid draws more fire

Not even the former sponsor chief for Norway’s largest bank, Jacob Lund, thinks it’s a good idea for Oslo to host the Winter Olympics in 2022, while city officials and Olympic (OL) boosters are being roundly criticized over their promotional strategy, their budgets and how a voter referendum on the issue has been carried out. Criticism over the Olympics as an event itself is also under fire, with many suggesting the Games have become overly lavish affairs whose time has passed.

Few if any have raised more money for Norwegian athletics than Lund, who was behind Den Norske Bank’s major sponsorship of sports for 20 years. He’s still working as a sponsor consultant and thinks Oslo voters should vote “no” on the city’s OL referendum. Lund wrote in a commentary on business web site E24, and told newspaper Aftenposten, that the lack of national political commitment to the project worries him and doesn’t bode well for an Olympics that would demand “insane” amounts of money.

A matter of priorities
He thinks budget estimates for an OL drawn up by consulting firm Ernst & Young, of NOK 47.5 billion (nearly USD 8 billion) are more realistic than the NOK 20 billion to NOK 30 billion that boosters say will be needed. “And I want to know how the politicians will then set their priorities,” Lund told Aftenposten. “The political silence on this (from state politicians who will have to post a financial guarantee for an OL) is deafening.”

Meanwhile, the few state politicians who have expressed an opinion on the Oslo2022 Olympic project are mostly opposed, in line with public opinion polls that have showed opposition by a majority of voters. Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party, said Thursday she’d already voted “no” in advance, while not even the Members of Parliament from the same parties leading the city politicians’ effort support the project. MP Michael Tetzschner of Høyre, Hans Olav Syversen of the Christian Democrats and Trine Skei Grande of Venstre have either said “no” or that they’re skeptical towards using so much money on an OL.

A majority  of Oslo high school students voting in the traditional and symbolic schools elections, however, voted “yes” on the OL referendum. That prompted boosters like Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang and national athletics boss Børre Rognlien to claim that their parents and other adults should listen to the “optimism” of youth and not rob them of the chance to experience an Olympics.

Olympics ‘no longer needed’
Lund also lent more credibility to claims from persons like a former national team coach for the Norwegian athletic association (Friidrettsforbundet), Håkon Lutdal, who recently wrote in newspaper Dagsavisen that the Olympics represent “a distasteful waste of money” that the sports world no longer needs. Lutdal argues that the amateur athletics that once characterized the Olympics are long gone, and that the other Olympic ideals of fellowship among nations and the various branches of sport are “pure nonsense.” He claims “money and media” control sports now, and that the current system of World Championships and World Cup events is more than enough to gather athletes for international competition.

Lutdal went so far as to write that the Olympics “disturbs” the intervals of the world championships and that while the much-praised Olympics at Lillehammer were famously dubbed “the  best ever,” he thinks the upcoming Olympics in Russia should be “the last ever.”

Legal scolding as well
On a local level, a respected law professor at the University of Oslo, Eivind Smith, told newspaper Morgenbladet that the city’s unabashed promotion of the OL project was “unforgivable.” Smith claims the city’s so-called “information meetings” and especially a video billed as merely an informative overview of the OL plans were highly promotional instead of impartial as he thinks they should have been. He demanded last week that the city drop its “pure propaganda,” cease mixing up its role as a planner with that of promoter, and “respect democratic rules” around a referendum.

Boosters, meanwhile, have been on the offense this past week, with the biggest amongst them from former Olympic medalists like Bjørn Dæhlie and Kjetil André Aamodt to Oddvar Brå and business celebrities like Petter Stordalen actively campaigning on the streets to win voter support. They’ve sought to remind Oslo voters what the Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994 meant for Norway and claim it’s time to host another OL again. Others disagree, claiming that other countries interested in hosting an OL, like Germany and Slovakia, should get their chance.

Questionable support nationwide
Norwegians outside of Oslo were also questioning the OL boosters’ campaign strategy for getting city residents to vote “yes” on the referendum, which claims that an OL in Oslo will amount to “a pure gift” from the state because of the state guarantee needed to finance it. That doesn’t necessarily go down well with taxpayers in the rest of the country, who fear Oslo will get far too many millions at their expense.

The OL referendum is being held in conjunction with the parliamentary election on Monday, but expatriate residents of Oslo are also eligible to vote if they’ve legally been in the country for at least three years.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • Tom Just Olsen

    Having voted ‘no’ I find myself in an uncomfortable situation having voted the same as Siv Jensen, leader of our half fascist populistic chit-chatterer. But she is just ‘fishing’ for a party donation and she will be ‘in’. As so often before. I have voted ‘no’ of conviction.
    What are the pro’s? First of all that Oslo needs more ice halls in particular, to have available facilities for all the skating, bandy, ice hockey, curling sporters in the Oslo region. Oslo also need more skiing facilities. Obviously, We need more housing. A participant’s village could easily be sold or rented away afterwards. Then Norwegians like winter sports. Otherwise we would have moved to Bermuda. Winter Olympics have always been very popular here.
    But it is the cost. 45 B NOK must be the right cost estimate since the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics cost 21 billion – 20 years ago. It was supposed to cost 9 B NOK! Was anybody held responsible for that miss? No! The CEO Gerhard Heiberg got a St.Olav the same night the games was over, the bill came later. Still it was regarded as a great success. – Much due to the sunny weather. That horse could kick the other way this time….
    45 B NOK is equal to one annual budget of the Oslo Local government. Come on! It is also a dangerous big thing to lay in the hands of the Høyre regime here in Oslo. They are notorious at wasting money, on low cost control and to direct deals friends. Is Norway corrupt? Well, possibly not. ‘We are so few in this country. Everybody is a brother or a friend’, as Nordahl Grieg writes.

    • Robert Cumming

      So you pretty much agreed that hosting the games is a good idea as it will help build many of the facilities Oslo lacks and also provide funds to fix the cities crumbling infrastructure yet you still voted NO?

      • Tom Just Olsen

        I voted no. But I see a few advantages. Like the build-up of particularly ice facilities.
        Oslo is a city with less than 600.000 inhabitants, but with one of the largest subway systems in Europe. City Hall (conservative) have given priority to build our highways for the next 4 – 5 years (financed in cooperation between City Hall, the state and highway fees) to the song of 10 – 12 B NOK per year. Instead of increasing the subway. The Oslo subway needs a new tunnel through Oslo which can double or triple its capacity. The cost will be huge. 15 B NOK or more. But it is not in the plans for the next 4 – 5 years. – I hardly think that Oslo will get money for such a tunnel ‘just because of the olympic games’. But who knows.
        Oslo’s infrastructure is far from ‘crumbling’ compared to cities I visit regularly, like Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki. More is being invested in the infrastructure around Oslo than in any of the other Nordic capitals. They have all traffic jams of ‘Egyptian’ dimensions. I regard Slussen in Stockholm to right out dangerous to drive through. Engineers have given the politicians several warnings that the whole structure might collaps one day. Still they have not decided what to do with it.

        • Robert Neve

          largest subway systems in Europe compared to who?

          • Tom Just Olsen

            To any city with 623.000 inhabitants. Oslo is a small city. T-Banen is slightly smaller (80 kmd tracks 95 stations) than STockholm’s Tunnelbanan (105 km 100 stations). But T-banen’s capacity has reached it’s top at about 220.000 pasangers per day. compared to Stockolm’s 800.000 +. To comparison Tunnelbanan covers a city with 1,3 million inhabitants. Even a larger area than that.
            The subway systems in both Helsinki and Copenhagen (new) is a small joke compared.
            To increase the capacity of T-Banen in Oslo will greatly improve traffic around the city..

            • Robert Cumming

              Most of Oslo’s T-banen is above ground, it’s not a true underground railway, more of a light rail network with 16 undereground stations in the central city. It’s a small system, not one of the largest in Europe by any means.

              If you go by station count the biggest metro networks in Europe are:

              Paris 303
              Madrid 300
              London 270
              Moscow 188
              Berlin U-Bahn 173
              Barcelona 166
              Berlin S-Bahn 166
              Milan 101
              Vienna 101
              Stockholm 100
              Munich 100
              Oslo 95
              If you go by track length or ridership it’s well down the list.

              • Tom Just Olsen

                Most of the cities you list up are far larger than Oslo. Like Moscow with 10,5 million people. Most have clogging problems that make our problem look simple to solve. Which they are. But the current conservative City Hall in Oslo have rejected building this T-bane tunnel. Which, you point out, is vital to get a far better utilisation of the whole T-bane system. The conservatives: Høyre, Frp and Venstre (it was up to Venstre in the last round) have decided to give priority road building instead.

            • Robert Neve

              So it’s not the largest. It’s just got a lot of track per capita but apparently doesn’t use it very well. Most likely because all the lines are bottlenecked into 1 tunnel. What would seriously help the t-bane network out is some express tunnels. Have trains that only stop at a few major stations. Say direct from jernbane to storo or goroud. That would stop the huge volume of people who are forced to go into the clogged up central tunnel as well as making them more tempting. But that sort of improvement will not come from the OL because it’s commuter improvements not tourist improvements.

  • Kanon25

    What’s needed to improve urban transportation in Oslo is not an Olympics – it is more common sense from both politicians and electorate.

    Norway is a cold and hilly country. And it is fairly dark too for at least half of the year.

    If you want people to take the t-bane, you need to coordinate development of jobs and homes directly ON that network, you need much higher frequency of trains (ie more like every 5-6 minutes on all lines) you need more pleasant stations with human being present operating them – and you need frequent buses at the suburban fringes of the subway all day and most of the evening, not just for 90 minutes in the morning and evening.

    It woudn’t hurt to drop the scrooge-like strategy of not heating the subway cars properly in the winter. Who wants to be frozen on the platform for 30 minutes, then half frozen in the subway, then freeze another 30 minutes waiting for a bus that takes you still a15 minute freezing walk from home.

    If fix do that, people will take the T-bane.

    This takes vision and investment. Said qualities are in short supply in Norway, regardless of political spectrum. All politicians, including the incoming ones are more concerned with grandstanding on peripheral issues and securing their stortinget pensions.

    And the voters are no better. They are far too easily distracted by side issues.