Ski-VM to profit despite unsold seats

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There were still 75,000 tickets available this week to the Nordic World Ski Championships (Ski-VM 2011) that starts in Oslo on Wednesday,  and only one event is sold out. Organizers claim they’ll still log a profit on the event that will help keep new facilities at Holmenkollen alive long after the next 12 days of competition are over.

Stands like these at what used to be a free viewing area may not be full during Ski-VM, but organizers still expect to generate a profit. PHOTO: Sven Goll

The new facilities, including the much-acclaimed Holmenkollen Ski Jump, are being paid for by Oslo taxpayers, which has been a topic of much debate. With few if any capital costs to cover, Ski-VM organizers could concentrate on generating and using revenues from the event itself.

In part due to capacity limitations at Holmenkollen, organizers only budgeted for sales of 180,000 tickets although 300,000 would be available. As of early this week, they’d sold 225,000 tickets, well under the 307,000 sold the last time a Nordic World Championship was held in Norway (at Trondheim in 1997).

Officials of Ski-VM 2011 claim they’re satisfied with the level of ticket sales nonetheless, since they’d expected to break even with 45,000 less than the amount sold as of Monday. That’s likely due to much higher ticket prices for this year’s World Championships in Oslo. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that while tickets for the Trondheim Ski-VM averaged NOK 160 (USD 27) adjusted for inflation, the average price for tickets to Ski-VM 2011 in Oslo is NOK 450 (USD 75).

Much more expensive
That makes a trip up to Holmenkollen for a family of four a much more expensive venture than it was for families 14 years ago, and likely explains why 75,000 tickets remained unsold on Monday. Organizers have also done away with what used to be free viewing spots on a hilltop just opposite the Holmenkollen Ski Jump (known as gratishaugen among Norwegians). It’s no longer free, and now costs NOK 300 (USD 50) for a spot in the stands there.

Only the men’s relay was sold out as of this week, meaning tickets remained available in most price categories for all other events. Ski-VM officials say they’ll still make a profit.

Aftenposten reported that in addition to being over budget on the actual amount of money brought in on ticket sales, Ski-VM is getting NOK 65 million in sponsor and marketing revenues from the International Ski Federation (FIS) for hosting the event, plus an estimated NOK 35 million from sales of food at the arenas, VM souvenirs and other support.

Using profits to boost usage
The profits will be shared by local ski association Skiforeningen and Norway’s ski federation Norges Skiforbund, which own 40- and 60 percent of Ski-VM 2011 AS respectively. They say they’ll use the profits for at least one major event at Holmenkollen during the summer, a Children’s Holmenkoll-day also during the summer, more and better World Cup weekend events and other activities both for elite and amateur athletes.

The idea, they say, is to try to boost usage of both the Holmenkollen and Midtstuen ski jumps and surrounding arenas. “We see that we’ll come out of Ski-VM 2011 with a decent result,” the organization’s finance director Stein Opsal told Aftenposten. Bente Lier, secretary general of Skiforeningen, says that’s good news, not least for her organization.

“The most important thing for us is that Holmenkollen can be used 365 days a year,” she told Aftenposten. “A profit will contribute to bigger World Cup events and other arrangements, and will give us more room to operate.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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