Winter Olympic Games 2022: Oslo baulks at cost and pulls plug on bid

The IOC issued a statement calling the decision 'a missed opportunity' but many in Norway do not feel the same way

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Norway is among the richest countries in the world, has won more Winter Olympic golds than any other, and its capital Oslo was almost certain to win the right to host the 2022 Games. Even so, the city has withdrawn from the bidding in a fashion that is highly embarrassing for the International Olympic Committee, and raises the question over whether a functioning democracy will ever be awarded the Games again.

Despite having the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the Norwegian parliament was not convinced hosting the Games was worth the money, and in withdrawing from the bid it also made public the IOC’s 7,000-page list of demands. They include many requests now familiar to Britain. Special chauffeur-driven Games lanes with traffic lights adjusted for their priority being one. The use of a special IOC hotel, “high quality” food and receptions at the opening and closing ceremonies, and a reception with Norway’s King Harald V, with drinks paid for by the royal family were others.

Such requests are technically not met through taxpayer funds, but from the money raised through ticket sales and sponsorship revenues generated by the local organising committee, but given the vast costs met by the public purse it is rarely, and quite rightly, not seen that way.

In London 2012, the IOC took over the Hyde Park Hilton in its entirety for the duration of the Games. Norway’s parliament had insisted the IOC meet its own accommodation costs.

In a report in March, the two parties that form the country’s coalition government said that “it is in Norway’s interests to contribute towards influencing the future organisation of the world’s largest sports event.

“It is critical that democratic countries that respect human rights still want to arrange the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Their withdrawal calls that into question. The IOC president, Thomas Bach, has confirmed bidding will not be reopened, leaving only two candidate cities, Almaty in Kazakhstan, and Beijing. Both countries have questionable human rights records. A recent Amnesty report on Kazakhstan said torture is “commonplace”.

The next Olympic bidding competition is for the 2024 Summer Games, in which Dubai and Doha are considering bidding, alongside Berlin, and at least one US city, likely to be Washington DC.

The IOC issued a statement calling the decision “a missed opportunity” but many in Norway do not feel the same way. Frithjof Jacobsen, a Norwegian political commentator, compared the IOC to rock stars. “Norway has said no to the inflated, ridiculous, otherworldly, expensive, unsympathetic meeting that the IOC has become,” he wrote in VG newspaper. “The Olympics are still a beautiful event, but those who own it have rotted to their roots.”