POSTED: March 14th 2014

NEIL WILSON: Please Oslo, get your act together for the 2022 Winter Olympics

The IOC headquarters in Lausanne / SFC
The IOC headquarters in Lausanne / SFC

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Oslo’s application to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games arrived at IOC headquarters in Lausanne by courier. The Norwegians chose not to send a small delegation for the traditional photo-opportunity with an IOC dignitary.

Perhaps they did not wish to draw attention to the application among a population where a majority is said to be opposed. Perhaps they did not want the price of a few air fares to be seen as an extravagance at a time when their government has yet to pledge its financial backing.

Or, perhaps, they are not serious. Which would be a pity. In the weakest line-up of applicants for a Winter Games in decades, Oslo is the stand-out candidate because it has none of the flaws of its rivals.

Take Krakow in Poland. Beautiful city, a World Heritage site. Unfortunately, it does not have a mountain suitable for Alpine events. So it has asked the neighbouring country of Slovakia to host them. Joint bids never go down well at the IOC.

To make matters worse it proposes to hold its other snow events in Zakopane. Transport links are said to be dire.

A third applicant is a joint bid by Beijing and Zhangjiakov, a city 73miles to its north. No chance, you would think, when Asia will have hosted in 2018 and 2020  and as recently as 2008 in Beijing itself.

Number four is Lviv in Ukraine. Enough said when the US State Department is advising against all non-essential travel to the country.

That leaves Almaty, former capital city of Kazakhstan which neighbours Russia and is no distance from Sochi. Would the IOC want to commit to another authoritarian regime – 95.5% voted for Nursultant Naarbayev in the last presidential election – where money would be no object so soon after the recent extravagances in the same region.

Oslo proposes to use many of the 1994 facilities of Lillehammer, many IOC members’ most fondly remembered winter Games. A new athletes village is already under construction for the2016 Winter Youth Games there and  an Olympic ski jumping hill was opened in Oslo only three years ago.

Its projected budget is $5.4 billion, a pittance after Sochi, and to emphasis its financial prudence the Norwegian Olympic committee can point to a $70 million surplus in 1994 which funded maintenance of Olympic facilities for the next 15 years.

No, Oslo is a slam-dunk. If it wants it. If it can convince the IOC that it wants it by July’s executive board meeting.  An application delivered by courier was not a good start.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books. 

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Olympics · IOC · Winter Games

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