Olympic opposition hits new high

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Only 35 percent of Norwegians agree with sports officials and some politicians that Norway should bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2022. Fully 60 percent disagree, according to the latest public opinion poll conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

The opposition rose by four points, up from the 56 percent who said “No” in March when asked whether Norway should apply to arrange the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Oslo. That led some Members of Parliament on Wednesday to say that now it’s time for the entire Olympic project, which already has cost  around NOK 200 million, to be put on ice.

No public enthusiasm
“Now it’s completely clear that, from the authorities’ side, they should consider putting the arrangement on ice,” Harald Tom Nesvik of the Progress Party told NRK. His party voted at its recent national meeting to reject the organizers’ request for a financial guarantee. Other parties are expressing more concerns now as well.

“This (the poll result) is a strong reaction against the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the waste of money that arranging a huge Olympics entails,” said Audun Lysbakken, leader of the Socialist Left party. “It’s impossible to support an Olympics unless the public mood turns around.”

Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labour Party told NRK that all Members of Parliament must “pay attention” to the poll results. His party colleague Trond Giske, a former government minister in charge of culture and sports, added that the polls show that the City of Oslo and the sports bureaucrats pushing for an Olympics haven’t succeeded in stirring up any public enthusiasm for their project. Yet it’s the public that must pay the bill, budgeted at NOK 35 billion and expected to cost much more than that.

Conservatives stalling
“One of the arguments for arranging an Olympics is that it’s supposed to be a folkefest (a big people’s party),” Giske told NRK. “But if the people themselves don’t want an Olympics, that’s of course an argument against it.”

Only the Progress Party and Socialist Left, interestingly at opposite ends of the political spectrum, have taken a firm stand against an Olympics. The other parties have remained non-committal, waiting for the Conservative Party to take a stand itself and then put forth a proposal. Some feel the Conservatives are stalling, perhaps in the hopes public opinion will turn.

“We need to know what it will cost, what facilities can be used afterwards and all that sort of thing,” Trine Skei Grande, leader of the Liberal Party (Venstre) told NRK. Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats urged the Conservatives, which hold government power, to act quickly on the matter. The Conservatives have a dilemma, though, since their government partner, the Progress Party, is already opposed.

PR campaign expected, IOC president meeting King Harald
“Now there is considerable skepticism, and I think much of the information that has come out, especially around the IOC, has made the skepticism greater,” Hareide said.

The Conservatives promise a proposal by autumn, when the Parliament must decide on a state guarantee. Between now and then, the Oslo2022 committee is expected to mount a major public relations committee to try to sway public opinion. IOC President Thomas Bach is also heading for Oslo next week, and will meet with King Harald at the Royal Palace on Monday.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund