Brand new ski jump full of mistakes

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Oslo’s new Holmenkollen Ski Jump opened just in time for last winter’s Nordic Skiing World Championships, after enormous budget overruns and political controversy. Now it seems it’s full of construction mistakes and deficiencies, and the price tag may rise further.

Oslo's Holmenkollen Ski Jump, when it was still under construction in December 2009. PHOTO: Views and News

Newspaper Aften reported last week that a long list of problems has cropped up after the success of the World Championships wore off and the winter season wound down. The large complex that Oslo taxpayers financed to the tune of NOK 1.8 billion (USD 327 million) was suddenly hit with leakage, poor drainage and some construction and planning mistakes that would almost be laughable if they weren’t so serious and potentially expensive.

The barriers around ramps leading into passageways under the jump, for example, were built way too low, meaning that they can’t keep snow at bay. Designers simply didn’t account for snow depth in the winter, and crews had to hastily set up sheets of plywood on top of the barriers and fences to keep snow from falling down into the passageways. Helge Johansen of the ski association that runs the complex told Aften the design and lack of foresight “is among the dumbest I’ve ever seen.”

In June, when Oslo was hit with a lot of rain, operators discovered serious leakage with water standing more than a meter over the floor of one storage room. Large portions of the complex’ water system can’t tolerate freezing temperatures, with pipes freezing on a regular basis.

Large cracks have already turned up in the concrete around the complex and the winter sports complex has problems dealing with wintry conditions.

All told, city officials have found 741 construction flaws and more are expected, according to a report acquired by Aften. While some of the flaws are considered minor, others, say city officials, “certainly should have been discovered during the construction process,” which was rushed at the end to get the complex ready for the World Championships.

It remains unclear who will take responsibility for the problems, which come on top of the huge budget overruns that cost one city politician her job. Some problems cropped up last summer as well, when the ski jump and its tower briefly opened to the public, only to encounter difficulty carrying visitors up in its elevator. It couldn’t handle their weight and kept getting stuck.

Kristin Vinje of the Conservative Party, which has government control in the city and ran the Holmenkollen project, defended the construction process and tried to downplay all the errors. “The ski jump was ready in time for the World Championships and functioned fantastically,” she said, adding that it’s not unusual to face some errors on such a large project.

Rune Gerhardsen, a member of the Oslo City Council who’s running for mayor in the upcoming elections, blasted the city government’s management of the Holmenkollen project. He blames foot-dragging in the early phases of the project, poor planning and a rushed job at the end, claiming that “then it’s clear there can be many mistakes.” He thinks the cost of needed repairs and improvements can reach another NOK 200 million.

“I’m certain the final, total price of the project will surpass NOK 2 billion,” Gerhardsen told Aften.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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