Oslo latest city to drop out of 2022 Olympic race
The Olympics that no one seems to want is down to just two candidates.
Oslo became the latest city to drop its bid for the 2022 Winter Games after the Norwegian government rejected financial backing for the project on Wednesday amid concerns the games were too costly - a decision the IOC said was based on "half-truths and factual inaccuracies."
Oslo's exit leaves Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, as the only two contenders.
Oslo is the fourth city to pull out of a race that has been thrown into turmoil in the wake of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, where the overall price tag was put at $51 billion, scaring off politicians and taxpayers and leaving the International Olympic Committee with a major image crisis.
Oslo's fate was sealed after the ruling Conservative party failed to support financial guarantees for the bid. Lawmaker Trond Helleland said it was a split vote and the party could not propose that the government go ahead with the candidacy.
The junior partner in the minority coalition voted against the bid four months ago, and polls have shown that more than 50 percent of Norwegians are opposed.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg said there was not enough support to spend 35 billion kroner ($5.4 billion) on the Olympics.
"It's important to get broad support for such an expensive project and there is not enough to carry through such an expensive project," she told Norwegian NRK television. "Without enthusiasm, it's not natural to carry this through."
Stockholm; Krakow, Poland; and Lviv, Ukraine, withdrew their bids in recent months. Before that, potentially strong bids from St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Munich, Germany, were dropped after being rejected by voters in referendums.
The IOC will select the 2022 host city on July 31, 2015, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Beijing, which staged the 2008 Olympics, is seeking to become the first city to host both summer and winter games. Almaty, a city in Central Asia which hosted the 2011 Winter Asian Games, bid for the 2014 Olympics but failed to make the final short list.
In a strongly-worded statement, IOC executive director Christophe Dubi described Norway's decision as a "missed opportunity" for the city and country. He said Norway would miss out on $880 million in sponsorship and television revenues that the IOC will provide to the 2022 host city.
Dubi said the Norwegian bid team asked for a meeting with the IOC earlier this year for an explanation of all the requirements and costs.
"Unfortunately, Oslo sent neither a senior member of the bid team nor a government official to this meeting," Dubi said. "For this reason senior politicians in Norway appear not to have been properly briefed on the process and were left to take their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies."
Oslo had seemed like the ideal candidate. Norway loves winter sports and has won the most medals in the Winter Olympics. Oslo hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics, and Norway held the widely acclaimed 1994 Games in Lillehammer.
But concerns over the cost of the games and public antipathy toward the IOC proved insurmountable.
"For a country of such means, full of so many successful athletes and so many fanatical winter sports fans, it is a pity that Oslo will miss out on this great opportunity to invest in its future and show the world what it has to offer," Dubi said.
Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg said opposition to the bid and the IOC mounted after an incident in Sochi, when the committee reprimanded four Norwegian female cross-country skiers for wearing black armbands in memory of an athlete's brother who had died on the eve of the games.
"It began with the armband case," Heiberg told NRK.
Cities have been put off by the cost associated with the Sochi Games. While most of that money went to long-term regeneration and infrastructure projects, not the cost of running the games, cities remain wary of the expense.
The IOC has acknowledged that it has failed to properly explain the difference between operating and capital budgets.
"We lost good cities because of the bad perception of the IOC, the bad perception of how the concept could be done," former IOC executive director Gilbert Felli said recently.
Cutting the cost of the games is one of the priorities of IOC President Thomas Bach, who is proposing a series of reforms - called "Olympic Agenda 2020" - to be voted on in December in Monaco. Among other things, Bach wants to add flexibility to the bidding process, allowing cities to propose their own concepts rather than adapting to a strict IOC blueprint.