By Nick Butler

Thomas Bach met with aspiring Norwegian athletes during his visit today ©TwitterInternational Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach met Norwegian King Harald and a number of athletes on a visit to Oslo today, although claims the visit was a "public relations exercise" designed to boost public support for the city's 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic bid have been strongly denied.

Bach met with King Harald at the Royal Castle in Oslo, where preparations for the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer figured highly, as well as the ongoing strategic plan for the future Olympic Movement, Agenda 2020, which is taking place throughout this year.

Accompanied by Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg, as well as chair of the Lillehammer 2016 Coordination Commission Angela Ruggiero, Bach also visited "Olympiatoppen", the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (NIF) high performance sport centre, where he met aspiring Olympians across summer and winter sports. 

Among those was cross-country skier Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, whose brother had died the day before the 15 kilometres cross-country race at Sochi 2014.

Norway's team were accused of breaking IOC rules by wearing black armbands during the race in his memory.

Bach claimed the IOC were sympathetic for Jacobsen, and "it was never intended the Norwegian skiers should feel they did not have support", before casting a parallel with the death of a team mate he endured when an Olympic fencer with the West German team.

Thomas Bach alongside Norwegian Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey, in the Ullevaal Stadium in Oslo, during his visit ©AFP/Getty ImagesThomas Bach alongside Norwegian Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey, in the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo, during his visit ©AFP/Getty Images

But it was Oslo's 2022 campaign which dominated as it struggles to gain public support, with a latest opinion poll conducted by research firm Norstat for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) suggesting 60 per cent of the population are against the bid.

The Norwegian Government is also yet to officially endorse the bid, and will not do so until the autumn, with the junior-coalition partner from the right-wing Progress Party having voted against supporting the bid at their National Congress earlier this month.

Several of the athletes Bach met outlined their support for the bid, including Jacobsen and six-time Olympic gold medal winning cross-country team mate Marit Bjørgen.

"He is genuinely interested in the sport and what we do," Bjørgen told NRK.

"He is an interesting person, and I hope this [visit] contributes in a positive way."

Bach also met with Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey, the Government official with the ultimate responsibility of deciding whether the bid receives endorsement.

"I got the impression that it is possible to discuss some of the IOC's requirements," the Conservative Minister told Aftenposten following the meeting.

"We are certainly not disqualified because of our attitude on reducing costs in relation to the things that have been common in recent Games.

"The IOC is flexible on some of the requirements, for example where the media and Olympic Village should be."

Oslo is locked in a five horse race for the Games in 2022 - along with Almaty, Beijing, Kraków and Lviv - with an unspecified number of candidates due to be selected by the IOC at an Executive Board meeting in Lausanne on July 8 and 9. 

Per Tøien, the NIF head of communications, denied Bach was on a mission to change public opinion, because it is against the IOC's rules to visit a bidding city to drum up support.

"He knows absolutely everything about the situation in Norway," said Tøien. 

"When he is here, he gets to experience the atmosphere.

"The meeting was arranged long ago, and he is not in Norway to convince about the Olympic issue."

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