Olympic support sinks to new low

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Two new independent public opinion polls indicate that support for hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022 in Oslo has sunk to new lows. A poll conducted for newspaper Bergens Tidende shows that only 26 percent of those questioned are keen on hosting an Olympics, while a poll for newspaper VG showed 30 percent.

Olympics,

Construction of new ice skating arenas in Oslo is among the advantages of a Winter Olympics, but critics claim such arenas can and should be built anyway, without needing an Olympic impetus. ILLUSTRATION: Oslo2022/Snøhetta Oslo AS

The new numbers are the latest blow for the sports officials and politicians trying in vain to drum up public support for an Olympics that’s expected to cost at least NOK 35 billion (USD 6 billion). Given the track record of earlier Olympics, that figure may triple or even quadruple, and even the residents of a country rich in oil seem to think that’s too much to spend on a lavish sporting event.

The prospect of hosting the Winter Olympics in Oslo has never enjoyed majority support in nationwide public opinion polls, but a referendum Oslo that attracted little voter turnout last fall ended with just over 50 percent in favour. Subsequent polls in Oslo have shown a consistent decline in support, and the new numbers show nationwide support has fallen fallen from more than 40 percent last year.

Some politicians still trying to push the Olympic through, however, remained undaunted. “We don’t let ourselves be steered by opinion polls,” Rigmor Aasrud, a former government minister for the Labour Party who now is its spokesperson on sports issues, told news bureau NTB Thursday morning. The current minister in charge of sports and culture, Thorhild Widvey from the Conservatives, has also continued to promote the project, backed by both business and labour organizations and national sports officials.

The conservative Progress Party, which controls the finance ministry, has consistently opposed hosting an Olympics, claiming the money would be much better spent on nursing homes, roads, schools and other projects. That’s caused a split in the government coalition that’s led by the Conservatives, prompting a hard-pressed prime minister, Erna Solberg, to state that the government can only propose the state financial guarantee necessary to host an Olympics if there’s broad support in Parliament. So far only the Progress Party and SV have formally opposed the project but the Christian Democrats, one of the government’s support parties, is clearly paying attention to public sentiment.

“The lower the public support goes, the better the arguments (to host an Olympics) must be from the government,” said the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary leader, Hans Olav Syversen.

Jacob Lund, the former sponsor chief for Norway’s largest bank DNB, is also skeptical. “No country should host an Olympics for the third time in 70 years,” Lund told VG. “World Championships are okay, but not an Olympics.” He also questions the investment needed versus the potential return.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund