Snowboarding disappointment

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Some of the world’s best snowboarders are in Oslo this week, competing in the World Snowboarding Championships 2012, but local disappointment kept popping up. One thing has been the lack of a main sponsor and slow ticket sales, and then a Norwegian gold medal favorite didn’t even make it to the semi-finals.

Brage Richenberg in action at the Wyllerløypa course of Oslo Winter Park in qualifying events earlier this week. He didn't make it to the semi-finals. PHOTO: World Snowboarding Champinships / Eleonora Raggi

Torstein Horgmo ruined his chances when his hand touched down on the snow during the qualifying runs in the “slopestyle” category on Tuesday. On Wednesday, his championship dream was shattered when Tuesday’s error cost him so many points that he failed to measure up against the other competitors.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that only one Norwegian snowboarder, Alexander Østreng, qualified to go on to the semi-finals.

“I had hoped a whole gang of Norwegians would move on to the finals, and that we’d have a real people’s party,” the head of the national team, Thomas Harstad, told NRK. “So I’m disappointed. I know we’re good enough, but today was a major downturn.”

There were also some bad falls. Another Norwegian medal hope, Gjermund Bråten, fell in the qualifying round and may have broken his collar bone, reported NRK. He was at the local emergency hospital Wednesday afternoon. Two others, Ulrik Badertscher and Torgeir Bergrem, failed to make the semi-finals as well, so all Norwegian candidates fell out of the running.

It was the latest in a string of disappointments for the organizers of the World Snowboarding Championships, being held at Oslo Winter Park in the hills above the capital. They failed to secure a main sponsor, which means Oslo taxpayers look likely to be stuck with a bill of NOK 28 million since city officials agreed to mount a guarantee for that amount.

Henning Andersen, head of the weeklong competition, has blamed a “poor sponsor market” while other local experts in sponsorships suggested the snowboarding championship’s prices were too high. Andersen is glad he has the city’s guarantee, and told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that the NOK 28 million budget wouldn’t be exceeded.

Ticket sales have also been disappointing. Newspaper Aftenposten, which has heavily covered and promoted the championships as a minor sponsor, reported that organizers had hoped to sell 25,000 tickets. Two weeks before the action began, only 3,350 tickets were sold and Andersen told DN earlier this week that the number was up to 5,000. They’re hoping for lots of sales from Thursday, when the semi-finals get underway, but that may not happen with most of the Norwegians out of the race.

The numbers compare to 270,000 tickets sold for last year’s Nordic skiing world championships in Oslo. Norwegian snowboarding legend Terje Håkonsen himself had told Aftenposten that his goal was to convince “snowboard haters” that his sport is worthy of respect.

Around 240 snowboarders from 30 countries are taking part in the championships, competing for titles in slopestyle and the half-pipe for men and women. At 6pm on Friday, a quarter-pipe event was also to be held with Håkonsen taking part, challenging his world record of 9.8 meters. It’s not an official competition but considered one of the sport’s more spectacular events.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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