Oslo Mayor says Olympic Movement has to adapt to contemporary economic realities

 

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang is a man with a sense of humor. “Norwegian summer this year will
be on a Thursday,” he announced to the Bislett Diamond League assembly. At the same time,
he is astutely political, saying at a personal interview: “A Winter Olympic Games in Oslo
depends on the concept of the International Olympic Committee”. Optimistic, yes?

Stang is saying that the Olympic Movement has to adapt to contemporary economic
realities. No longer can a Games be a sporting Las Vegas for high rollers. “If the IOC will
agree to a practical financial down-sizing, then I genuinely believe a satisfactory deal could be
possible for Oslo-Lillehammer for the Winter Games of 2022. The adjustment has to come
from the IOC.”

Stang is not prejudging the IOC’s vote at the Session of 2015 in Kuala Lumpur. The
shortlist of candidates will be announced at the Executive Board meeting in Lausanne on July 7
– almost certainly Beijing, Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Oslo.

Confirmation of Norway’s willing candidacy will be determined by the new parliament
in November. Previously adverse public opinion polls, and political doubts, now reveal a
positive swing. The unspoken truth at its Lausanne headquarters is that the IOC urgently needs
a new hosting blueprint that will revive city ambitions across an increasingly skeptical sporting
world. They need Norway.

Jorrod Asphjell, Norwegian NOC vice-president and prominent labor politician,
enthusiastically supports the downsize prospectus. “If this can be realized, then all those
prominent cities which have questioned the advisability of hosting – Stockholm, Milan,
Munich, Rome, Madrid, some US cities – can be reassured. We don’t need to build superstadia
never again utilized, facilities that don’t reflect domestic involvement. With modified
planning, the global concept for Winter Olympic Games can be vitalized. Norwegian youth is
keen – and we could use a new Olympic village for moderate student rates. The 1952 model is
a little tired!”

Thomas Bach, IOC President in hot pursuit of modernization, is anxious to propagate a
revised culture, part of his objective in December’s ‘2020 Agenda’ debate.
Bach is actively proposing that a Games is not inescapably Sochi’s 50 billion Dollars
ambition – “that we want to see from a candidate a ‘National’ Games that reflects their culture
and traditions – that we don’t yield to the highest bidder but to the most authentic.” This view
can simultaneously embrace a near 1 billion Dollars subsidy injection from IOC funds, athlete
support from the Solidarity Fund, finance being generated not by the city but income from IOC
stakeholders.

Without Oslo’s eligibility, the choice next year will be confined to an authoritarian government
of little-known, little-experienced Kazakhstan, or Beijing, separated from its skiing venues
by unacceptable travel time. At the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) recent choice for Nordic championships in 2019, delegated to Seefeld (Austria), Almaty was a candidate receiving not a single vote. Beijing’s additional limitation is the profusion of Asian-hosted major events following the Summer Games of 2008; Nanjing Youth Games and Incheong Asian Games this summer; PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2018; Tokyo Summer Games 2020.

Sergey Bubka is currently attempting to keep alive Ukraine’s Winter bid for 2022 – he
has been promising this week a promotion meeting with the newly-elected state President – but
political uncertainty across seven years would hardly be Lausanne’s lollipop.

At the risk of sounding prejudiced, Oslo in my opinion can be a fulcrum in historic IOC
evolution in the 21st century. In a world of diminishing ideology in sport, Scandinavia (and in
particular Norway), is a surviving example of ethics, of all that was envisaged 120 years ago by
Coubertin.

Norway believes as much in participation as in glory by their own winter elite; in the
proverbial ‘taking part’; in the true, indiscriminate universality that Bach was preaching at his
Opening Ceremony speeches in Sochi. Norway, with IOC collaboration, can keep alive public
ethical appetite for the Olympic flame.

Without this front line, global sport could rapidly disintegrate into exclusive TV events
for celebrities, increasingly dominated by toxic, visually extreme disciplines beyond universal
school access.

The beauty of Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Babe Didriksen, Casius Clay, Emil Zatopek,
Fanny Blankers, through Franz Klammer to Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, is that they were
ordinary folk still relating to the community – exceptional but one of us. Norway’s NOC and
Norwegian politicians recognise that this link has to be retained between public and performers:
the link that drew 30,000 spectators, sleeping in tents in C -20 degrees, in expectation of the
50Km Nordic cross country at Lillehammer in 1994; that drew sell-out crowds in every sport in
London’s legacy-making Games of 2012.

Smaller nations such as Norway need not necessarily fear the losses experienced by
Athens – where there remain unequivocal benefits, as Spyros Capralos, executive director in
2004, reflects. “By wanting the Games, we had the excuse to promote infrastructure that would
only have been achieved over many years, perhaps never. They remodeled the whole city – a
new airport, a new road network, three new metro lines, transforming everyday life, including a
valuable technology investment. The fault lay in funding too large stadiums for sports where
we had no local tradition, that had too high maintenance, instead of opting for temporary
structures.”

Of course the option remains for bigger investment by major cities for development
transformation, on a separate government budget unrelated to the Games budget – such as that
in London which re-energized an aged Victorian east end. Sir Craig Reedie, IOC vice president,
closely involved in the 12-year project, reflects: “The project accelerated the massive Thames Gateway project, a 35-year plan to decontaminate the desperate area of Hackney,creating a new park in a £9.7bn investment program, much of which hinged on security. Anew village of 2,800 apartments with a population capacity of 11,000 has been sold. The velodrome remained, other facilities were dismantled or sold on. City transport was transformed, Stratford International rail linked to Kings Cross. The biggest shopping center in Western Europe was created, a media center now utilized by British Telecom – all this because of the Games.”

This article was republished with permission from the editor and publisher of The Sport Intern, Karl-Heinz Huba.

 

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