Holmenkollen Ski Jump project logs enormous budget overrun

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The new Holmenkollen Ski Jump rising in the hills above Oslo already was set to cost taxpayers hundreds of million kroner more than originally thought. Now its price tag has swelled by at least another NOK 600 million, and the city official in charge has resigned.

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

Opposition politicians were quick to call the massive budget overrun a “scandal,” and “the worst budget overrun ever in Norway.” A report from consulting firm Metier, delivered to city officials on Monday, predicts that the budget for the ski jump project must expand from NOK 1.2 billion (about USD 193 million) to NOK 1.8 billion.

Project leaders, advisers and the ski jump’s architects “have underestimated” the complexity of the project and the consequences of time pressures, reads a statement on the overrun from the City of Oslo.

Construction crews have been working on the main ski jump and its smaller sister jump, plus adjacent facilities, almost around the clock in order to finish in time for next winter’s pre-World Championship trials in 2010. That has led to requests for bids that lacked detail, and subsequent contract changes that have been expensive.

The city official in charge of business and sports, Anette Wiig Bryn of the Progress Party, offered to resign on the spot, and her political colleague Erling Lae of the Conservatives, who head’s Oslo’s city government, accepted it. She stated that the entire reconstruction of Holmenkollen, which also involved tearing down the old landmark ski jump, proved to be “more ambitious” than first thought.

Here's what the new ski jump is supposed to look like when finished in time for next winter's trial jumps. The Nordic World Championships will be held here in 2011. ILLUSTRATION: JDS Architects

The huge budget overrun, which will need to be covered by other parts of the city’s budget, comes at a terrible time for the Progress Party, which has become Norway’s second-largest and has been considered the most serious challenge to Norway’s current left-center coalition. “This is probably the biggest scandal in Oslo’s modern history,” claimed Rune Gerhardsen of the opposition Labour Party. Railed another politician from the Socialist Left: “And this (Progress) party wants to run the country?”

Others agreed that Wiig Bryn “couldn’t possibly survive a catastrophe like this,” and charged that she and other city officials, in their eagerness to host the 2011 World Championships, overlooked “plenty of warnings” that it would be wildly expensive.

Lae vowed that other city services wouldn’t suffer as a result, mostly because the city has a low level of debt at present, for which he is grateful.

It’s also possible the state will be forced to come up with more funding for the project, which initially was expected to cost “only” NOK 310 million. Holmenkollen is considered a “national sports facility,” even though the City of Oslo has been held responsible for the lion’s share of its costs.