Resistance to Oslo's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games is mounting, despite a reiteration of support from 18 of 19 regional sports confederations across Norway.
The Norwegian capital's bid, locked in a three-horse race with Almaty and Beijing for a Games that will be awarded next year, is still lacking Government endorsement and efforts are rising to persuade the authorities that the majority of the country opposes hosting the Games.
This will be signified on Friday (September 19) with a public demonstration in the city, which, although engineered by the Oslo wing of the Socialist Youth Movement, claims to be "politically neutral and open to all".
Protesters are hoping to convince the Government, as well as Parliamentary figures that have the deciding vote, that the majority in Norway is against the Olympics and that bidding for the Games is a luxury that cannot be afforded at a time of economic unease.
A good example of the increasing power of social media to orchestrate resistance movements, the protest is being orchestrated via the Facebook event "Demonstrasjon mot OL i Oslo i 2022".
As it stands, only 457 of the 5,400 people invited are confirmed as attending, but the anti-Olympic lobby will hope far more people actually attend.
This comes amid many claimed boosts for the anti-Olympic lobby earlier this month, including several polls suggesting support remains below 30 per cent as well as the fact that Aftenposten, Norway's biggest newspaper, has switched sides to opposing the bid.
A leading anti-Olympic figure has claimed to insidethegames that this is "by far the most significant movement in the battle" since the right-wing Progress Party - the minority in Norway's governing coalition led by Finance Minister, Siv Jensen - voted against the bid in May.
But the pro-Olympic campaign has also been boosted by the strong pledge of support from all but one of the regional sports confederations, with Troms, the region in which the northern city of Tromsø is located, the one not to offer support.
This follows similar declarations of support earlier in the summer from two leading business figures in Gerd Kristianen, President of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, and Kristin Skogen Lund, the director general of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises.
At the annual meeting of the sports confederations this week, a message was expressed that they "fully support" the work undertaken by the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederations of Sports (NIF) to promote the bid.
They now "look forward to a positive vote for the application in the Norwegian Government and in the Norwegian Parliament".
NIF secretary general Inge Anderson has claimed this almost unanimous support "sends a clear message to both the Government and the Parliament", and that they are all now "looking forward to welcoming the world's best Olympic and Paralympic athletes to Oslo and Norway in 2022".
Norwegian International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Gerhard Heiberg has also spoken positively about the prospects of Government endorsement, while many athletes have voiced their approval.
Among those leading the way has been Birgit Skarstein, the Paralympic rower and skier, who has argued that while she shares many of the public grievances about the Olympics, there would still be great benefits to be gained by pressing ahead with the bid.
Yet in a contest that is twisting and turning in a similar vein to the ongoing battle for Scottish Independence the other side of the North Sea, plenty more conflicting arguments will be put forward in the weeks ahead in a debate poised to become ever more divisive.
A Government decision is expected in the first 15 to 20 days of October, insidethegames understands, after which a White Paper will be distributed, before a Parliamentary vote takes place in December.
A final decision as to who will host the Games will be made during the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
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