Gold fever rises to Olympic pitch

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The flags had barely come down at Holmenkollen on Sunday before the calls started going out that Oslo should bid for a new Winter Olympics. It was perhaps predictable: Sports bureaucrats already had started carefully planting the seeds of an Olympic bid before the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships (Ski-VM) began, and their success has filled Norwegians with confidence.

Patriotic Norwegian skiing fans are filled with new confidence after the success of the world championships in Oslo, and now calls are rising to host a new Olympics as well. PHOTO: Petter Tandberg/Oslo 2011

Echoes of the past 12 days of wild cheering at Ski-VM will likely reverberate for a long time, and Norwegian fans remained delirious about the 20 medals, eight of them gold, that their sports heroes collected during the event. Olympic and civic boosters were quick to strike while the iron is hot, urging city and state officials to think seriously about applying to host the Winter Olympics in either 2022 or 2026.

Gerhard Heiberg, the former head of the successful Olympics at Lillehammer in 1994 who since has been a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), started lobbying for a new bid last month. He told newspaper Aftenposten on Monday that the widely acclaimed folkefest (public party) that surrounded Ski-VM and impressed foreign visitors “is a good enough reason to apply for and get a new Olympics” (simply called “OL” in Norway).

Heiberg, who suffered a slight heart attack just as Ski-VM began but was in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, said the success of the world championships in Oslo “gives extra fuel to the discussion on whether Norway should bid for an OL. It’s great to be able to mount such a folkefest that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

“I know that what has happened in Norway hasn’t gone unnoticed by the IOC.”

The arrangers of the just-finished Nordic World Ski Championships have shown that Oslo can host a successful skiing event. PHOTO: Sven Goll

Heiberg said that it’s probably most realistic to apply for the 2026 games, depending on where the 2018 Olympics land. If they’re held in Europe or North America, it’s most probable that Asia would win the Winter Olympics in 2022, giving Norway a good chance for 2026.

Heiberg is far from alone in his support for another Olympics in Norway. “Ski-VM represents a stimulus for the thought of applying for an OL,” Jomar Selvaag, who was marketing director for the Lillehammer OL, told Aftenposten. “Winter sports is our thing. Skiing is one of the few sports where we really are a big international power.”

Selvaag agrees with Heiberg that Oslo would be the best location within Norway, given existing facilities and the other conveniences of the capital. “It’s very clear the city could handle the assignment,” he said.

“I really hope the Ski-VM will lead to another Olympics,” agreed Johan Baumann, a veteran sports bureaucrat who was on the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee. The vice president of the national sports federation Norges Idrettsforbund, Børre Rognlien, told Aftenposten that the Olympics has been a topic of conversation at Holmenkollen every day as the world championships unfolded. And that’s how things normally evolve in Norway, that those in positions of power snakker sammen (talk together).

“The world championships have confirmed that Norway has the competence to arrange major skiing events,” Olemic Thommessen, a Member of Parliament for the Conservatives, told Aftenposten. “But it’s a matter of priorities,” he added, referring to the huge funding required. “It’s a major and difficult issue.”

Anniken Huitfeldt, the current government minister in charge of sports and culture, was attending the government’s annual budget conference that started north of Oslo just as Ski-VM ended. The state only provided a small portion of the money needed to build the new ski jumps and other facilities at Holmenkollen, leaving the city of Oslo with most of the bill. She told Aftenposten, however, that “we in Norway must take on the responsibility of arranging large sports competitions now and then.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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