'New Holmenkollen' takes shape

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Panoramic Holmenkollen, high in the hills above Oslo, is a beehive of construction activity this summer, as deadlines loom for completion of new ski jumps in time for the Nordic World Championships in 2011. Trial jumping is supposed to take place as early as this winter.

Construction has been going on day and night at Holmenkollen, and the ski jump project is costing taxpayers a fortune in overtime. PHOTO: Views and News

As Oslo prepared to celebrate Midsummer this week, and temperatures rose under sunny summer skies, few locals were likely thinking much about winter sports. But officials at the “Oslo 2011” organizing committee for the Nordic World Championships are thinking of little else. On Tuesday they won some more welcome state funding, laid out plans for the thousands of volunteers needed to host the event, and confirmed that construction is on schedule.
It involves much more than just a new Holmenkollen Ski Jump and a smaller jump just below it at Midtstuen. The entire Holmenkollen area will also get new, upgraded Nordic skiing trails, an upgraded biathlon stadium, and everything from a new press center to other facilities meant to accommodate the public.

This is the time of year when Holmenkollen is usually full of tour buses carrying visitors keen on the view over the city and fjord, and even outdoor concerts. This year, most buses are diverted to other vista points, while tourists and residents alike still find their way to watch the work in progress.

It’s all estimated to cost well over NOK 1 billion of state and city (read taxpayer) funding. That was controversial when the rebuilding was under consideration and it still is. The leader of one local sports club in Oslo recently wrote in newspaper Aftenposten that the entire Holmenkollen project has become a “prestige project” that comes at the expense of athletic halls, swimming pools, ice rinks and other sports facilities that could be used by far more people than the world’s ski jumping elite.

Debate also has broken out, meanwhile, over what to do with the so-called “Diamanten” (Diamond) that once crowned the old Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The little house where ski jumpers nervously awaited their turn for decades was saved during the dismantling of the old jump and now sits on the ground in the midst of the construction zone.

It was purchased from Holmenkollen’s demolition company by Oslo entrepreneur Tommy Sharif, who promptly turned it over to the state as a gift. The government minister in charge of sports and culture in turn gave it to the ski association based at Holmenkollen, Skiforeningen .

Newspaper Aften called for ideas from readers last month and later proclaimed that “the public had spoken,” with most of those responding saying Diamanten should be used as a kiosk or café in the new Holmenkollen complex.

The problem is that Skiforeningen has no funding for its renovation. It hopes the state will pitch in again. Sharif has already contributed his share.