Oslo’s Olympic committee unveiled details of their 11th-hour alternative plan for a slimmed-down Winter Olympics in 2022 on Thursday, cutting its budget by nearly a third. They hoped to generate more public support for an Olympics, but wound up fending off more opposition and don’t support the alternative themselves.
The biggest cut involves dropping plans to build a new ice arena at Valle Hovin in Oslo and instead use the so-called “Viking Ship” arena in Hamar, about a 90 minute drive from Oslo, where Norway’s Johan Olav Koss won three Olympic gold medals in 1994.
Skating officials raised immediate objections, claiming that one of the major reasons for hosting an Olympics in Oslo was to build new sports facilities, especially badly needed ice arenas.
The Oslo2022 promoters of another Winter Olympics in Norway dropped plans, though, to move biathlon events from Oslo to Lillehammer. The idea was to save money on new biathlon facilities that would have to be built, probably at Grønmo in southeast Oslo, by using existing facilities at Lillehammer. Promoters, however, feared too much pressure would be put on hotel capacity in Lillehammer which already will host the bobsled and luge events, with alpine skiing held at nearby Hafjell and Kvitfjell. The biathlon facilities would also be used by the Paralympics that follow the Olympics, and they’re not supposed to be moved from the city applying for the winter games.
Plans to move ski jumping and other events to Drammen or Vikersund were also dropped on claims that moving them would add to costs, not reduce them.
The most money could be saved, according to Oslo officials, by demanding more TV- and sponsor revenues from the IOC and scaling back on construction plans for an Olympic Village, a media center, a broadcasting center and housing for media representatives. Facilities built for the upcoming youth Olympics in Lillehammer in 2016 can be reused, the organizers claimed. Only one new ice hockey hall should be built, not two in Oslo. Less money can also be used for marketing, administration and staffing.
Don’t recommend their own new proposals
All this would save NOK 8.8 billion (USD 1.4 billion at current exchange rates). But neither Oslo2022 nor the city’s Olympic committee recommends them. “We need more athletic facilities in Oslo but we can’t pretend that the debate over costs hasn’t existed,” Stian Birger Røsland, leader of the city government for the Conservatives, said at a press conference Thursday. “There has been considerable skepticism towards the amount of money needed. I think it would have been irresponsible of us to not present alternatives.”
A vast majority of Norwegians want Røsland and the other politicians and bureaucrats pushing for an Olympics to simply drop the whole project. They argue that new sports facilities can be built without having to host an Olympics.
Now the government will have two alternatives to evaluate before deciding whether to support the government financial guarantee demanded by the International Olympic Committee. One of the dozens of commenters on Norwegian Broadcasting’s website, most all of whom were negative to an Olympics, wrote that the Olympics can rather give the government a golden opportunity to improve relations with China: “Just drop the project and let Beijing host the Olympics in 2022.” Beijing is one of only three bidders for the Winter Olympics in 2022, along with Oslo and Kazakhstan.