Agreeing to ask Norwegian taxpayers for a NOK 20 billion guarantee, a compact majority of Oslo’s politicians voted on Wednesday to go ahead with an application to bring the Winter Olympics to their city in 2022. But there’s still a long way to go.
53 members of Oslo’s City Council voted in favor of hosting the Olympic games, called ‘OL’ in Norway, against just six votes from the socialist parties and the greens. Marianne Borgen, representing SV, said that Oslo has better things to spend its money on.
Stian Berger Røsland of the Conservatives, who heads the city government, insisted that an OL in Oslo will be more than a large sports festival. Instead, he predicted “a big and important chapter in Oslo’s history.”
“We are going to create a new legacy for Oslo’s citizens, achieve something that we wouldn’t otherwise be doing,” he declared.
“We’ll make a compact OL, and create a unique atmosphere for those watching”.
But Røsland notes that Oslo has a very long way to go to secure the games. Now it’s up to an army of government bureaucrats to examine all the details in Oslo’s “Games in the city” concept, and eventually decide whether they’re worth a state guarantee.
“We have to have a state guarantee. Without that, the International Olympic Committee won’t even let us hand in the application,” Røsland told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
There are more uphill battles to fight, too. Oslo’s leaders, backed by powerful sports lobbies, the tourism industry and more, are up against critics of the massive expenses involved and Oslo’s history of large budget overruns on sports facilities like the new Holmenkollen ski jump.
The key question is what use Oslo will have from a pile of costly Olympic facilities once the games are over. OL boosters insist that the games will benefit areas that need renewal, particularly the suburban valley of Groruddalen northeast of the city. But critics aren’t so sure.
The next step will be a local referendum in connection with national elections on September 9. Various polls have not given any clear indication of whether Oslo’s voters support the idea. But in one recent poll, more than 80 percent said they will cast their vote on the matter.
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