March 9 - Oslo 2022 has dismissed fears that bankruptcy concerns surrounding a ski festival in the Norwegian capital this weekend have cast a further shadow over its Olympic and Paralympic bid.
The Holmenkollen Ski Festival and World Cup has long been a major event in the Norwegian skiing calendar but there have been reports that the event is grappling with a large deficit and uncertain income prospects and is threatened by bankruptcy.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has reported that the operating deficit has risen to 12 million krone (£1.2 million/$2 million/€1.4 million) in the past year, while there has also been lower ticket revenues and less interest from sponsors.
Although the distractions of other events, such as the ongoing Winter Paralympics in Sochi and the costs associated with preparing a new ski jump ahead of the 2011 Nordic Skiing World Championships partially account for the problems, this can be construed as more bad news for Oslo 2022 as they bid to showcase the popularity of winter sport in Norway.
But Oslo 2022 has strongly downplayed any negative impact and, although she did not speak directly about the ski festival beyond suggesting the problems were slighter than feared, communications director Ingunn Olsen has insisted this will not affect the bid.
"This is not a sign about declining interest in winter sports because the passion for winter sports remains very high in Norway," she told insidethegames.
"Many people attended the ski festival and the broadcasting viewing figures for the Olympic Games in Sochi were very high.
"A lot of people were watching the Games which shows that winter sport remains very popular.
"We still have a work to do to inform people about our concept and about what kind of Olympics Oslo 2022 will be.
"People are more concerned about other issues such as transparency - but we will continue trying to inform and change perceptions about all of these issues."
It is still thought that over 50 per cent of the Norwegian population opposes the Olympic plans, with the bid facing a Government review later this year.
A letter sent last week also outlined a series of demands which could have to be met for this Government approval to be given, including a respect for human rights, a workers charter and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) paying its own costs.
These developments come less than a week before Oslo - along with its four rivals in the 2022 race, namely Almaty, Beijing, Kraków and Lviv - are due to submit their Applicant Files to the IOC in Lausanne on March 14.
The IOC will then consider the applications in the spring before short-listing an unspecified number of candidate cities at an Executive Board Meeting in July.
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