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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

‘Secret’ IOC demands stir suspicion

Norway’s national athletics federation (Norges Idrettsforbund, NIF) has received a 7,000-page list from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), setting out the requirements Oslo would need to meet in a potential bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics (referred to in Norway as simply ‘OL’). The IOC said the contents are classified but on Thursday, Norwegian politicians were demanding to see it, arguing a realistic budget for a Winter Games in Oslo can’t be prepared without the information.

Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP) politician Carl I Hagen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that it makes no sense to keep specifications of venues and facilities confidential, so he wonders what the IOC may be trying to hide. “When something is secret, I become suspicious,” he said. “If it’s in the requirement specifications that all IOC members shall have their own Mercedes to be driven around in, that they shall live so-and-so well, that they shall have so-and-so much money for food and drink, then it’s another matter. I must admit that I am suspicious of the IOC right now.”

IOC under fire
Those suspicions follow weeks of criticism directed at the IOC and specifically the Norwegian member of the IOC, Gerhard Heiberg, over their allowance of extravagant OL expenses in Sochi, their posh living accommodations, their reluctance to criticize things like human rights violations in host countries, and the priority they place on following IOC rules instead of showing more human compassion in various situations. The Norwegian women’s cross-country ski team was reprimanded, for example, for wearing black armbands following the death of a team member’s brother, and on Wednesday, the Ukrainian team’s request to wear black armbands following the deaths of countrymen in uprisings back home was rejected as well. Heiberg, meanwhile, stirred controversy after he called Norway “arrogant,” while many others accuse the IOC of being the same.

Norway’s Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey, who was in Sochi last week, said she was glad that the IOC later changed its mind under pressure and withdrew its reprimand of the Norwegian women. “If the IOC doesn’t have tolerance, generosity or compassion, they’re on the wrong track,” Widvey told newspaper Aftenposten. She will be the government minister in charge of recommending whether the state should financially support Oslo’s bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2022. Right now, the IOC doesn’t have many other viable alternatives to Oslo’s bid after countries like Germany, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland all dropped their own bids because of financial concerns.

Unusual political agreement on demand for IOC openness
Libe Rieber-Mohn from the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) is usually at odds with Hagen of the Progress Party,  but she backed his demand that the IOC’s requirements be made public. She said that while politicians have many key figures already, full transparency is needed.

“As a general observation, I will certainly say that the (IOC’s) specifications seem unreasonably extensive,” she said. “Last time we applied for an OL in 1952, the requirements were only two pages.” Bård Vegar Solhjell from the Socialist Left (Sosialistisk Venstreparti, SV), added that politicians need time to familiarize themselves with the long list to get an understanding of the costs to be taken on and the benefits IOC members require.

The athletics federation said the City of Oslo, the Oslo 2022 committee and Department of Culture already know most of what’s in the IOC’s technical manual. “We have no intention to keep anything secret, and have had a good dialogue with the IOC to publish the entire technical manual which is 7,000 pages,” Secretary General Inge Andersen told NRK. “I am completely confident the answer from the IOC (to the request for full disclosure) will be positive, so if the politicians want to spend the spring and summer reading up on it, go ahead.”

The Oslo 2022 delegation has also been in Sochi to drum up support for its controversial Olympic bid, which a vast majority of Norwegians oppose, according to a string of public opinion polls. The city has already spent millions on its campaign, despite the fact the Norwegian government has not committed to funding the event and that the strong public opposition remains. Woodgate and Nina Berglund



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