Organizers of this year’s annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival were counting on sunny skies, appearances by victorious skiing celebrities and some new events to boost attendance this weekend. At least the weather forecast was good.
Ticket sales were also showing a solid increase over the past few years, when the public all but abandoned what used to be one of the biggest events of the year in Oslo. As many as 100,000 people used to head for the hills of Holmenkollen to watch cross-country ski races and ski jumping, but attendance started declining in the 1990s. Foggy weather, changing recreational habits and one year with a big and unpopular jump in ticket prices left the arena under the ski jump almost empty.
It was clear the event needed to lure back fans. Last year the owners of the Holmenkollen Ski Festival (Norway’s national skiing federation and the local skiing association Skiforeningen) hired a new managing director after heavy losses. “The first thing I did was to get control over costs and try to get some predictability on the revenue side,” Kristin Sæterøy told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) this week.
The festival snared Sparebank 1 as a main sponsor plus new sponsors for the athletes’ start numbers and arena advertising. The festival also get a new board, with members from various businesses, public relations and former national athletics chief Børge Stensbøl as chairman.
This year’s Ski Festival, a World Cup event that was to begin with women’s ski jumping on Friday evening and end with the men jumping on Sunday with ski racing in between, was also featuring a new World Cup race on Saturday evening. Ticket prices have been cut and as of Thursday, sales were running well ahead of last year, with 18,000 sold, up from 13,000 at the same time last year.
With many often showing up at the last minute, Sæterøy and her staff were feeling fairly confident that their goal of selling 30,000 tickets would be met. All told they hope as many as 90,000 to 100,000 will stream through Holmenkollen in the course of the weekend.
The festival is also bound to benefit from all the medals won by skiing stars like Marit Bjørgen, Petter Northug, Therese Johaug and jumpers like Rune Velta, who just won gold at the World Championships in Sweden. Jumper Anders Fannemel, who set a world record this season, will also be hurling himself off Holmenkollen.
Organizers also hope that many ski jumping fans from Poland who live and work in the Oslo area will also head for Holmenkollen during the weekend. Norwegian fans are known for camping out along the route of the men’s 50-kilometer race on Saturday and the women’s 30-kilometer race on Sunday. The World Cup competition wraps up this weekend, with Norwegian skiers Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Marit Bjørgen already named the winners of the overall World Cup for this year.