Fears grow over Oslo 2022 bid as public opposition in Norway continues to mount

Friday, 08 August 2014
By Nick Butler

Opposition remains high in Norway despite the popularity of winter sport in the country ©Oslo 2022Oslo 2022 have sought to clarify "misconceptions" over the role of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) amid fears they are losing the public relations battle to get the support they need to bid for the Games. 

Oslo was announced last month as one of three candidates to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, along with Almaty and Beijing, with a final decision due on July 31, 2015, at the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur.

But, although widely seen as the early frontrunner, Oslo's bid is yet to receive endorsement from the Norwegian Government, and opposition to bring the Olympics to the city for the first time since 1952 remains both large and vocal. 

The latest public opinion poll, conducted by research firm InFact for the Tromso newspaper Nordlys, found only three out of 10 Norwegians support the bid, with there being no majority support in any area of Norway, including Oslo.

It showed a 2.1 per cent decline among those favouring hosting the Games, while the portion of those who are "uncertain" has increased by 10.4 per cent.

Opposition is strongest in Northern Norway, where 80 per cent are opposed, while in Oslo itself, 50 per cent oppose the bid in comparison with 44.4 per cent in favour.

Norway's Culture and Sports Minister Thorhild Widvey meeting Thomas Bach during the International Olympic Committee's President's visit to Oslo in May ©AFP/Getty ImagesNorway's Culture and Sports Minister Thorhild Widvey meeting Thomas Bach during the International Olympic Committee's President's visit to Oslo in May ©AFP/Getty Images



Publication of the poll has coincided with the confirmation that Norway's Culture and Sports Minister Thorhild Widvey has agreed that the bid will comply with the Olympic Charter, something she had initially said she would not do.

This is normally a formality which has to be met by all bidding cities, including by Lillehammer during their successful campaign to host the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, but in Norway it has proved controversial due to the wave of anti-IOC hysteria prevalent across the country. 

The organisation is seen as extravagant and overly demanding on Olympic hosts cities, with a report in March calling for IOC members to pay their own costs when attending the Games. 

Given this context, the decision of Widvey is seen as a U-turn on her earlier sentiments that the bid will be a purely Norwegian project where the country would retain complete control of all costs.

But Oslo City Council Leader Stian Berger Røsland, the chairman of Oslo 2022, is among those who has argued against these "misconceptions".

He disputes the view that the IOC occupies "millions of dollars" for hotel and meals, and points out that the IOC themselves contribute significant amounts to the successful implementation of such events.

He added that the IOC are aware of the need to moderate their image in Norway, citing the example of the visit paid by President Thomas Bach earlier this summer, where the German travelled in a minibus alongside his entourage rather than in a private limo.

Despite the latest poll, Oslo 2022 continue to resist the overwhelming evidence that support for the bid is declining, claiming they remain confident it will rise further over coming months.

A decision by the Government is expected in the autumn, with the support of Widvey, a member of the majority Conservative wing of the ruling Coalition, offset by the opposition of Finance Minister Siv Jensen, leader of the minority Coalition partner, the Progress Party. 

A decision other than full support would represent a final nail in the coffin for the bid, ahead of the January 7 deadline for the submission to the IOC of Candidature Files by the three shortlisted cities.

Contact the writer of this story at nick.butler@insidethegames.biz


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