IOC’s demands met with ridicule

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“High and mighty” demands made by members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were setting off ridicule and head-shaking among members of the Norwegian Parliament on Friday. The MPs are the ones who must ultimately decide whether to go along with them as they evaluate funding for a Winter Olympics in Oslo in 2022.

The so-called "Lords of the Rings" at the IOC have high expectations for how they'd expect to be greeted and treated during a Winter Olympics in Oslo. Norwegian politicians quickly seemed keen to lower them on Friday. PHOTO: Sochi 2014

The so-called “Lords of the Rings” at the IOC have high expectations for how they’d expect to be greeted and treated during a Winter Olympics in Oslo. Norwegian politicians quickly seemed keen to lower them on Friday. PHOTO: Sochi 2014

“Now these people at the IOC really need to be brought back down to earth,” remarked one scoffing politician on national radio station NRK1 on Friday. Rigmor Aasrud of the Labour Party and Bård Vegar Solhjell of the Socialist Left (SV) were among those all but laughing over some of the IOC’s demands made to potential Olympic host cities like Oslo.

Among them are a demand that IOC members only be housed in top five-star hotels of “international” standard in Oslo. IOC’s leadership also wants an entire “VIP” floor, where they also demand 24-hour availability of medical personnel devoted only to them during their entire stay.

The IOC’s President Thomas Bach would expect to be greeted on the tarmac with a red carpet at his airport of arrival, while the IOC members also require their own cars and drivers during the course of the Olympics.

“I think it would be good for them to take the T-bane (metro) like everyone else,” Solhjell told NRK. Other politicians were noting that the IOC members’ expectations were clearly out of line with the average Norwegians’.

IOC demands initially kept secret
The IOC’s clear demands for VIP treatment were among those released in 7,000 pages of requirements for an Oslo2022 Olympic Organizing Committee that the IOC initially attempted to keep secret, and that stirred suspicions. Firm requests from politicians including Carl I Hagen of the conservative Progress Party and Libe Rieber-Mohn of the Labour Party to make the documents public were later approved, with the City of Oslo’s Olympic planners contending that they really wanted to make them public all along.

“There have been so many questions from so many about what’s in these manuals (of IOC requirements) and now folks can see for themselves,” Stian Berger Røsland, the head of Oslo’s city government who also leads the Oslo2022 application committee, told NRK. He claimed that the IOC documents’ release came at the initiative of his government and the Norwegian athletic federation, while Oslo2022 director Eli Grimsby claimed that “we thought the manuals should be released as soon as we got them. When the IOC became aware that we didn’t see any reason to keep these documents secret, they went along.” Added Røsland: “The goal was to remove the uncertainty that their secrecy created.”

Political prodding
Most political commentators were giving credit, though, to Hagen and Rieber-Mohn for prodding along the release. Hagen especially wanted to examine the IOC’s demands “in many practical areas.” He’s concerned, for example, over claims that the IOC can demand changes in Olympic plans along the way or have so much control that costs can soar, since the IOC itself bears little if any financial responsibility for the event itself.

The IOC’s personal demands were not popular with the state politicians asked to pay for them. The demands also presented a paradox, since IOC President Bach himself had claimed during the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, which were the most expensive ever and difficult for ordinary spectators to attend, that an Olympics in relatively low-key Norway could help bring the lavish sporting event down to size.

Public still firmly opposed
Public sentiment, meanwhile, continues to run heavily against the proposal to host the 2022 Winter Games in Oslo. A new poll presented by newspaper VG on Thursday showed 56 percent of Norwegians opposed to plans for Oslo2022, while fully 77.8 percent of residents of Northern Norway opposed.

With only 32 percent of all Norwegians in favour of an Olympics in Oslo, it appears that the 26 medals won by Norwegian athletes in Sochi didn’t have much effect on local enthusiasm. An application from Oslo must be sent to the IOC by March 14, and a funding guarantee must be approved by the Parliament by January 2015. A decision on a venue for 2022 will be announced on July 31, 2015.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund