‘Bergenese’ launch own cycling bailout

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Thousands of the proud residents of Bergen, who often identify themselves as “Bergenese” instead of simply “Norwegians,” were clearly upset to hear that organizers of their city’s wildly popular cycling world championships last week are now facing major budget overruns. They’ve spontaneously started sending in donations themselves, to help fund a bailout.

The huge crowds in Bergen who turned out to cheer during the cycling world championships last week are now literally putting their money where their mouths were, and sending in donations to help offset the event’s budget deficit. PHOTO: Bergen2017/Trinadh Rakesh

“Before 9am today (Tuesday) several thousand had already sent in donations,” an overwhelmed president of the national cycling federation, Harald Tiedemann Hansen, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I don’t have a full overview, because they’re using various accounts (tied to the federation, Norges Cykleforbund) but the amounts are mostly between NOK 100 and NOK 1,000 (USD 13-130).”

That means the event’s organizers, who spent much more on what’s called Sykkel-VM in Norwegian than their budget allowed, already had raised as much as NOK 300,000 so far via a entirely impromtu effort that’s also been promoted on social media.

“It’s clear that many people strongly supported the cycling party we had here,” Hansen told NRK. “I’m incredibly grateful that they now want to give something back.”

‘Best ever,’ but costly
As head of the cycling federation, Hansen is mostly responsible for the party’s hangover that may result in losses of as much as NOK 70 million. He and the boards of both the cycling federation and Bergen 2017 AS have been accused of financial incompetence and lacking control over their spending since Bergen was granted the rights to host what officially was called the UCI 2017 Road World Championships.

It attracted the world’s best cyclists who later, along with fans and international cycling officials, have claimed it was the best world championships ever, with surprisingly good weather and, not least, all the wildly enthusiastic fans who cheered the cyclists on for a full week. Bergen’s director of tourism, Ole Warberg, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday that the event turned into “a 10-day people’s party that we haven’t seen the likes of since the liberation after World War II.”

As is the case with so many large international sporting competitions, though, the organizers ran into financial problems almost from the beginning. Unexpected costs popped up, sponsors failed to materialize, the value of the Norwegian krone declined (leading to an extra currency exchange cost of several million) and Hansen has admitted they ended up spending much more than they earned. Exactly how much isn’t yet clear.

Fans take responsibility, too
Hansen has more than hinted that he hoped the state will help bail them out, on the grounds that the event brought Norway lots of international exposure and publicity. Warberg himself put the sheer market value of the event at around NOK 1 billion, based on estimates from the former sponsor chief at Norway’s biggest bank, DNB. Now the locals are stepping in themselves, with the enthusiastic fans now putting up money as well as all the flags they hoisted last week.

One of them, named Kristin Solhaug, urged her followers on Facebook to “give a bit back after the wonderful people’s party we had during Sykkel-VM.” She noted that if all the roughly 100,000 people estimated to have been among the crowds in downtown Bergen on Sunday alone were to give just NOK 50, they’d raise NOK 5 million.

“It’s really great that people think along such lines,” Hansen told NRK. “I’m just filled with so much gratitude.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund