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Monday, July 15, 2024

Campaign brewing for new Olympics

Norwegian sports bureaucrats, some top politicians and skier Therese Johaug are among those talking about the possibility of arranging another Winter Olympics in Norway, perhaps as early as 2030. Oslo’s bid to host what the Norwegians simply call an “OL” in 2022 met massive resistance, though, and enthusiasm for a new bid remains low.

The Winter Olympics at Lillehammer in 1994 were famously called “the best ever” by the IOC’s leader at the time. Norwegian sports bureaucrats regularly try to spark public enthusiasm for organizing another Olympics, but high costs and what some call “absurd” use of resources remain a major obstacle even in a wealthy country like Norway. PHOTO: Wikipedia/Scanpix

The issue came up last spring at the annual meeting of the Center Party, which now shares government power with the Labour Party. “We and the rest of the world need an Olympics to look forward to,” Center Party deputy leader Ola Borten Moe told Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen at the time. Now Moe is a government minister, while Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum is finance minister. Vedum also supports a new OL bid.

Both have proposed an Olympics that would re-use exisiting sports facilities, possibly including some from Norway’s last Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994, or the Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo. Neither Moe nor Vedum want any of the “absurd use of resources” Moe equates to attempts at “showing off by authoritarian regimes.”

Not everyone is enthusiastic about an OL bid, including Center’s own parliamentarian leader Marit Arnstad and Moe’s fellow deputy leader Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, now Norway’s government minister in charge of foreign aid. “I think a new Norwegian OL would be too expensive,” Arnstad told state broadcaster NRK. “I have no faith that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) can be persuaded to cut costs.”

Berit Kjoll, president of Norway’s national athletics organization, is nonetheless moving forward with a new evaluation of a possible OL. She’s formed a commission charged with shaping a “common understanding” of what might make up a new OL bid.

Skiing champion Therese Johaug, soon on her way to compete in her last Olympics in Beijing this winter, hopes Norway will host another Olympics. She still wishes the upcoming OL was being held in Oslo, not China.

“Sooner or later Norway must arrange the Olympics again, within a reasonable framework,” Johaug told newspaper Dagsavisen this week, just as this year’s winter sports season was getting underway in Norway.

“It’s a complex event,” Johaug said, “but I think cultural heritage lies at the bottom of it, and that it would be natural for Norway to arrange it now and then. Both the OL in Lillehammer in 1994 and the World Championships in Oslo in 2011 showed the world how this can be done.”

The next Winter Olympics is due to run from February 4-20 in Beijing, in three different regions, with ice-related events in Beijing and skiing in the mountains. The Corona crisis has created major challenges for the Chinese organizers, though, and few if any cheering fans will be present.

Concerns about human rights abuses in China, the Chinese government’s persecution of its Uighur minority and its brutal crackdowns on democracy and free speech in Hong Kong have also dampened enthusiasm for the event, and prompted calls for an Olympic boycott. They come just as calls for a boycott of the next World Cup in Qatar have risen again, after two Norwegian journalists were arrested while on assignment in Qatar for state broadcaster NRK. Qatar has also been repeatedly accused of human rights violations and both exploiting and badly treating migrant workers who’ve been building World Cup facilities. Berglund



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