High ticket prices kept crowds away

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Oslo’s annual Holmenkollen Sunday turned into a deep disappointment for its organizers, when less than half the estimated number of spectators turned up for the World Cup ski jumping competition. High ticket prices for even the cheapest grandstand seats were blamed for the large areas of empty benches.

Fans failed to fill Oslo's Holmenkollen Ski Jump on Sunday like they did during last year's World Championships, and organizers were blamed for charging ticket prices that were way too high. PHOTO: Tore Afdal

Arrangers had expected far fewer spectators than in earlier years, claiming that the event has a lot more competition from other events now. But even their conservative estimates of 18,000-25,000, compared to 60,000-80,000 3o years ago, were woefully off the mark. Only around 10,000-12,000 people actually showed up.

It cost between NOK 450 and NOK 600 (USD 82-110) for a spot on Holmenkollen’s concrete benches, and that clearly was much more than even the Norwegian market would bear. Norwegians are generally accustomed to paying high prices, but ski jumping chief Clas Brede Bråthen realized the organizers’ pricing strategy was a big mistake.

“I think this is sad,” Bråthen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I’ve never seen such empty grandstands here in Holmenkollen. It’s serious and risky for an event that has been built up around being folksy and family-oriented for more than 100 years. For me, there’s nothing ‘family-friendly’ when tickets in the stands cost at least NOK 450 each.”

He was bitterly disappointed because the two other factors that often determine whether the hometown crowd will turn out for a sports event were in the arrangers’ favour: Successful local athletes and good weather. Martin Koch of Austria ended up winning on Sunday, but Norwegian Anders Bardal is among those leading in the World Cup series of competitions, and the weather was great, with sunny skies instead of the famous Holmenkollen fog. Bråthen said there was all reason for the stadium to be full.

Instead, he complained that the high prices and poor promotion spoiled prospects for the traditional Kollen-brøl, the roar from the crowd in packed stands that the ski jumpers have loved. As many as 100,000 spectators have attended Holmenkollen Sunday in earlier years, and Sunday’s poor turnout was especially worrisome given the huge amounts of taxpayer money used to build the new ski jump in Oslo — and plans to another bid for a Winter Olympics in Oslo.

“We haven’t done anything right,” Bråthen fumed to NRK. “That’s my verdict.”

Public online debate on NRK confirmed Bråthen’s condemnation of the high ticket prices.  “It’s cheaper to go to the Opera,” wrote one woman on nrk.no, “with better seats and entertainment.” Almost everyone writing comments on NRK’s report of the poor turnout blamed the high prices, and said organizers Skiforeningen and Skiforbundet should have charged half the price they did.

“We’re a family of four who had wanted to take a trip up to Kollen today, but with those prices, it wasn’t possible,” wrote one man. Another said the grandstand prices should be sunk to around NOK 200, and the area’s famed “gratishaugen,” a nearby hill where spectators could watch for free, should be reopened. It was a festive part of earlier ski jumping at Holmenkollen, but was closed when the ski jump was rebuilt to host the World Championships last year.

Others pointed to a lack of marketing, akin to the “See you at Kollen!” posters that used to be plastered all over town in the weeks leading up to Holmenkollen Sunday. But mostly it was the “ridiculous” prices that kept people away, declared one student who said he and three friends turned around at the ticket booth and went home when they saw what tickets cost.

Per Bergerud, chairman of the event, claimed he was satisfied with the three days of World Cup Nordic events at Holmenkollen, especially the ski racing. But he admitted the spectator turnout for ski jumping was too weak. It would have been “incredibly fun to fill the arena again,” he said, “but it’s a big arena.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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