By Nick Butler

A demonstration will take place in the streets of Oslo on September 19 against the bid ©AFP/Getty ImagesA public demonstration has been planned for later this month as the controversy over whether Oslo's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics should go ahead becomes ever more divisive.

The protest, due to take place on Friday September 19, is being arranged by Nei til Oslo OL-2022, whose Facebook group has more than 70,000 likes, and will consist of a march from the Parliamentary Building to the Oslo 2022 offices.

It has been organised by the Oslo wing of the Socialist Youth Movement, but they claim it iis politically neutral, with elements of the Progress Party also set to participate. 

Any organisations, sports clubs or associations wishing to register their protest at Oslo's bid have been urged to join the demonstration. 

With the Norwegian Government yet to decide whether or not to endorse the bid, and with political as well as public support still divided, the rally can be interpreted as an attempt to generate more attention against the bid, ahead of the decision being made later in the year.

The protest has been organised on the Nei til Oslo OL-2022 Facebook group ©FacebookThe protest has been organised on the Nei til Oslo OL-2022 Facebook group ©Facebook

Details of the demonstration have coincided with Oslo 2022 presenting potential changes to their plans, thought to involve a possible budget cut of as much as kr10 billion NOK (£97 million/$167 million/€123 million).

In order to achieve this, sports which were due to be held in new facilities could be moved to existing venues outside the capital, with biathlon potentially being moved to the 1994 Winter Olympic venue in Lillehammer, while ski jumping could now take place in Vikersund 86.5 kilometres to the west of Oslo, and figure skating in Drammen, 40km to the south-west. 

An Oslo 2022 spokesperson told insidethegames this afternoon they remain firmly behind their concept, "which is based on democratic values, a responsible re-use of iconic sports arenas such as Holmenkollen, Kvitfjell and Hafjell and on a sustainable development of the City of Oslo".

The spokesperson added: "However, today, as input towards the ongoing national political process on a Government guarantee, the Oslo 2022 Bid Committee has presented possible areas of the concept where there might be room for adjustments".

Yet while this would ensure lower spending, it could also lead to a loss of legacy benefit in Oslo itself, with the advantages which would be brought by new facilities.

The new plans come after several polls suggesting interest in the bid is dwindling, with one, in Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidenderevealed, finding just 26 per cent of those asked favoured hosting the Games while another, in VG, showed 30 per cent support.

In the last week, several regional divisions of the Labour Party have voted against the campaign, which, despite the fact the Party is not in Norway's Governing Coalition, is another blow because the bid will also be subject to Parliamentary approval.

Earlier this year, the Progress Party, the right-wing minority coalition partner led by Finance Minister Siv Jensen, voted against supporting the bid, and opinion remains divided within the majority Conservative wing.

In a slightly more positive indication, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has found 26 out of 47 Conservative MP's support the bid, in comparison with 10 who oppose it, and 11 who are awaiting the Government's proposals and the subsequent discussion in Parliament.

A further MP, who had previously indicated support for the bid, did not respond to requests.

More use could be made of facilities used at Lillehammer 1994, instead of new facilities being built in Oslo ©Getty ImagesMore use could be made of facilities used at Lillehammer 1994, instead of new facilities being built in Oslo ©Getty Images

"As Norwegians, we appreciate and expect the Oslo 2022 bid to be widely debated in public," the spokesperson for Oslo 2022 told insidethegames.

"We are pleased that recent polls conducted by TNS Gallup show that there is a majority in favor amongst people below 29 years - ranging from 43.5 to 49.3 per cent positive to 30.4 to 35.3 per cent negative.

"Also, approximately 80 per cent of the population wants Norway to participate in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and over 50 per cent think Norway should host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games some time."

Oslo are facing opposition from Almaty and Beijing in a three-horse race for the Games, with the International Olympic Committee due to make its final decision on July 31 next year during its Session in Kuala Lumpur.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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