Opposition grows to Olympic plans

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The Oslo chapter of Norway’s largest labour confederation, LO, has voted overwhelmingly to actively oppose plans by city officials to host the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 2022. Mayor Fabian Stang, meanwhile, is clearing the way for foreign residents of Oslo to be able to vote on the Olympic issue after all, after initially being excluded from an upcoming referendum.

Olympics bid

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, who recently made sure the Olympic rings were re-installed on the city’s Holmenkollen Ski Jump, is now clearing the way for foreign residents of Oslo to vote in the upcoming Olympic referendum. The city’s biggest labour organization, meanwhile, will campaign against the Olympic plans. PHOTO: Oslo 2022/Oslo kommune

The major labour organization LO announced this week that it plans to campaign actively against an Oslo Olympics, fearing that it will come at the expense of other more important social services. Their announcement came after LO’s local board unanimously voted “no” on the Olympic issue at a meeting over the weekend.

“Now we intend to encourage everyone as clearly as we can to also vote ‘no’ in the upcoming referendum on the issue,” Kjersti Barsok, deputy leader of LO in Oslo, told newspaper Dagsavisen.

The referendum, unusual in Norway, is set to be held in conjunction with national elections in September, and thus would exclude legal residents who aren’t Norwegian citizens because they aren’t entitled to vote in national elections. Since they are eligible to vote in local elections, though, and an Olympics would be mounted by the city, Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang said this week that he wants to include all legal residents of Oslo in the voting.

“This is an issue that involves everyone living in Oslo,” Stang told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) this week. “Then I think it’s most unfortunate if some residents of the city feel excluded.”

Stang wants to allow the roughly 60,000 legal, tax-paying residents of Oslo who don’t hold Norwegian passports to express their opinions on the Olympic project, which is estimated to cost the city at least NOK 25 billion. Some, including LO officials, fear it will cost double that by the time the so-called “Games in the City” are over.

Stang said that even though foreign residents can’t vote at national polling places, the city can set up separate polling places at City Hall, where those who only are eligible to vote in local elections can cast their ballot. His proposal seemed to be winning support from other political parties.

LO vs OL
Meanwhile, the labour organization LO doesn’t think an Olympics (called simply “OL” in Norway) would be in the best interests of the city, despite the redevelopment it would bring and the jobs it would create. “If Oslo wins a bid for an OL, it will demand billions in investment that the capital needs to meet other goals,” Roy Pedersen, leader of LO in Oslo, told Dagsavisen. He noted that some analysts have estimated it will cost as much as NOK 30 billion-50 billion to hold the 16-day event, and that can force budget cuts elsewhere.

City boosters of the Olympics, led by Eli Grimsby, director for the planning effort “Oslo2022,” have called an OL in 2022 “Norway’s great chance” to arrange an Olympics for the third time. She’s promoting a “compact” and efficient OL that she claims will be a needed catalyst a long list of improvements within mass transit, student housing and other developments in addition to needed new sports facilities.

“The games would give us the push necessary to change industrial areas into functional residential areas, not a bad idea for a city that’s growing the fastest in Europe,” Grimsby wrote in a recent commentary in newspaper Aftenposten.

The LO bosses aren’t convinced. Even though the latest public opinion poll showed 51 percent of Oslo residents now in favour of an OL, there’s ongoing opposition outside of Oslo and support within Oslo is thin. “I think many of those who were in favour of an OL in the beginning have later later developed reservations,” he said.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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