Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ll have heard the news that Oslo is no longer in the running to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Despite the new coalition government voicing their concerns in recent months, the announcement came as a surprise considering the people of Oslo voted yes in a referendum on hosting the games last year.
The internet has been buzzing with the news that Norway has pulled out. After all, how can a country arguably more passionate about winter sports than any other and more financially stable than most possibly think hosting the Games could be a bad idea?
Let’s find out.
Norway first hosted the Games in 1952 after almost 17 years of planning.
All of the sports except for the Alpine Skiing took place within the City of Oslo, with the opening ceremony taking place at Bislett Stadium, still the home of many Olympic sports in Oslo today.
As they have done at many events since, Norway wiped the floor with the competition, winning 16 medals, 7 of them gold.
Forty years later, the Olympics returned to Norway to the tiny town of Lillehammer.
For many people of my generation, Lillehammer was our first experience of the Winter Olympics.
And what a memory it was: freezing cold conditions, thousands of people crowded into Lillehammer’s cramped streets, and yet again, Norway dominating the medal table (although, Russia won more gold medals)
Lillehammer marked the end of an era for the Winter Olympics. As money became more and more important, never again has an Olympic Games been held in a place so small.
So it’s with this proud legacy that grand plans for Oslo 2022 were unveiled. Taking inspiration from the 1952 event, the slogan for the bid was the “Games in the City”, a nod to Oslo’s first-class sporting facilities located within the city limits, such as the Holmenkollen National Ski Arena, completely rebuilt as recently as 2010.
Highlights from the bid included: “Captivating moments. Embracing nature. In 2022 our ambition is to share our genuine passion for winter sports, and invite the world to an open, friendly and sustainable celebration of sports.”
“Games in the City. Compact and urban games, with the athletes and the spectators at the core of the concept”
So what went wrong?
Cost was always a concern for the bid team, politicians and general public. Norway is a rich country, but the spiralling cost of the Sochi Games had many Norwegians questioning if the Games could really be delivered on a budget, as the Norway bid team had promised.
But as the decision day for the Norwegian Government grew near, the demands from the IOC seemed to sway the balance.
On the morning of the vote, the country’s largest national daily newspaper, VG, printed demands the IOC would make to Oslo as host, including IOC members enjoying a cocktail reception with the King and having special lanes for Olympic traffic.
Conservative lawmaker Geir Inge Sivertsen publicly came out against the Oslo bid days before the vote, but said there was no doubt that the latest “very strange demands from the IOC” swayed the party, which he thinks had been narrowly in favor of underwriting the bid.
“Norway is a rich country, but we don’t want to spend money on wrong things, like satisfying the crazy demands from IOC apparatchiks,” said Frithjof Jacobsen, VG’s chief political commentator. “These insane demands that they should be treated like the king of Saudi Arabia just won’t fly with the Norwegian public.” – ABC News
The withdrawl was met with mixed reaction in Norway and around the globe. Many Oslo residents were frustrated at the withdrawal, barely a year after they voted “yes” in a referendum on the issue. But many Olympic fans see this as the latest in a string of failures by not only IOC officials, but major sporting event officials in general.
FIFA’s awarding of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar, and the IOC’s handling of the events in Rio and Sochi have left many sports fans questioning the bid process for major events.
Many people around the world see Norway’s stance as the right thing to do.
But it leaves the bidding process for 2022 in chaos, with neither of the remaining candidate cities – Beijing or Almaty – having anything like the quality of Oslo’s bid.
Could Norway’s decision change the IOC forever?
Photo credit: T Magliary