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Is the Winter Olympic brand in trouble?
Sunday October 5, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

Oslo is the latest European city to pull out of bidding for the 2022 Games. The Norwegian public said an emphatic NO & four candidate cities have now withdrawn. PlanetSKI reports.

Last week it was confirmed what everyone following the 2022 bidding process had been expecting - the Norwegian government could not agree to support the Oslo bid and offer the necessary guarantees of financial support and political backing.  

There was a growing, widespread and vocal opposition to holding the 2022 Winter Olympics in the country. 

The people of Norway simply did not want the Olympics.

See here for our news report as the announcement was made.

This came despite the fact that Norway easily has the most winter Olympic medals of any nation with a total of 329.

Some way off in second place is the USA with 281.

Norway was seen as the early favourite and had the unofficial support of the International Ski Federation as we reported back in September 2013.

Perhaps of deeper concern is that skiing is in the lifeblood of Norwegians; wintersports are a national pass time.

Yet it was uninterested in holding the greatest winter snowsports event of them all.

If any nation should want to host the Winter Olympics it should, perhaps, be Norway.

The IOC puts the blame firmly on the doorstep of the Oslo 2022 Organising Committee and the politicians. It said the decision to withdraw was "on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies."

*The full statement from the IOC is reproduced at the end of this article.

The IOC made no reference to the fact that it seems, in Western Europe at least, there is now little public appetite for holding "The Greatest Show on Earth".  In the winter at any rate.

There is one very important question that needs answering at the very highest level within the Olympic Movement.


In part it is because of the expense.

But perhaps more worrying is a growing public feeling that the International Olympic Committee, IOC, has simply got too big for its boots with its list of demands and requirements.

It appears out of touch with sports fans, tax payers and even some of the athletes themselves.

The IOC gave a 7,000-page document to Oslo organisers.  

Many of the requests and demands are entirely fair and done so to show what is needed to host the Games.

Others though resemble the demands of a precious and egotistical diva.

Some Norwegians have said that it appears the IOC delegates demand a continuous supply of alcohol, food and special services.

- The IOC President should be welcomed at the airport with a special ceremony.

- IOC members should have special entrances and exits at the airport.

- Senior IOC delegates should have their own cars with a driver supplied.

- Special lanes on all main roads should be created for their exclusive use with priority given to the IOC.

- IOC members should have special access to all sporting venues.

- Hotel mini-bars should be stocked with coca-cola and their hotel bars should have a late license.

- All IOC members be provided with a new Samsung mobile phone with a Norwegian mobile subscription.

- Meeting rooms to be kept at exactly 20 degrees celsius at all times.

The list goes on...

The IOC bosses also required a meeting with the King of Norway before the Opening Ceremony with a cocktail reception afterwards.

Then there is a general feeling that big sporting events, whether it be the football World Cup or the Olympics, are awarded in a non-transparent and highly unaccountable way. 

Some go further and say there is simply downright corruption though there is no evidence of this in the recent awarding of The Olympics.

If Oslo's withdrawal was a one-off then it probably would not matter.

But it wasn't. And it does.

The bid is overThe bid is over

















One of the early contenders to host the 2022 Winter Olympics was Davos/St Moritz in Switzerland.

Its strenth was that it was situated in the heart of the Alps and, like Norway, has a rich tradition of snowsports with a local population passionate about snowsports.

The IOC itself is based in Switzerland.

The public vetoed the idea in referendum as we reported in March 2013. 

Next, Munich and Barcelona expressed interest and aimed to be the first cities to hold both a Summer and Winter Games. 

The public had other ideas and did not offer enough support.

The German and Spanish voters seemed to prefer to spend their money on schools, hospitals and public services rather than the Winter Olympics.

When the 2022 shortlist was announced in November 2013 there were 6 contenders; Oslo in Norway, Stockholm in Sweden, Almaty in Kazakhstan, Beijing in China, Krakow in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine.

The IOC celebrated the high level of interest. 

"I am delighted that six cities are bidding to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. These cities and their supporters clearly understand the benefits that hosting the Games can have and the long lasting legacy that a Games can bring to a region," said the in-coming IOC President, Thomas Bach, at the time.

"Indeed, while recent Games have left an array of sporting, social, economic and other legacies for the local population, many cities that did not go on to win the right to host the Games have also noted benefits as a result of their bids," he added.

Since then the list of candidate cities has dwindled to two, Beijing and Almaty, not because the bidders have been rejected as their efforts are not up to scratch.

Rather because the candidate cities lost referendums or local politicians judged the public to be against the idea.

Neither Beijing nor Almaty have consulted the public in a democratic way and the implication from that is clear to some.

Stockholm, Krakow and Lviv all dropped by the wayside before Oslo pulled the plug on its bid.

In Lviv, Ukraine, however it was more to do with the political situation, rather than any resentment to the Winter Olympics.

Bidding cities do drop out as plans falter or external circumstances change, but the lack of public support across cities in western Europe is unprecedented.

However in 1976 people in Denver, USA, voted against holding the Winter Olympics even though they had already been awarded. The public simply did not want them and they were switched to Innsbruck in Austria.

At present, in public, the IOC is putting on a brave face and trumpeting the economic benefits and the lasting legacy a Games will produce for any host city.

It says the only two bidders remaining for 2022, Almaty and Beijing, have excellent proposals and the 2022 Winter Games will be a success for whoever holds them.

In private there are worries.

The statement blaming the Oslo bid organisers and politicians has backfired, in Norway at least.

If anything it has poured petrol on the flames as it failed to address the simple issue that the majority of the people in Norway did not want anything to do with 2022 Winter Olympics.

Some commentators see the Olympic movement at a crossroads. 

There is no real indication that the same feeling is transferring to the summer Games but concerns are mounting.

If ignored the IOC does so at its peril.

The recently elected IOC President, Thomas Bach, has recognised the issue and it was discussed behind closed doors at an IOC meeting in Lausanne in July 2014.

But so far little specific seems to have been done to address the issue in practical terms.

Some though are confident of the Olympic strengths and fear much of the current opposition is based on perception, not reality.

However perception matters.

Maybe the IOC needs its dedicated lanes, mobile phones and free hospitality, but apparently the public does not think so. 

Neither do many of the athletes who go through so much to even reach The Games.

Oslo spent £19 million before it changed its mind - that could have gone a long way to helping its athletes with training and financial support.

However it is not so clear cut as that as it costs huge amounts of start-up money to secure The Olympics. 

The card the IOC plays is legacy. The long-lasting benefits of holding the event.

Here at PlanetSKI we visited Salt Lake City in 2012 a decade after its 2002 Games and detected a lasting and visible Olympic legacy.

The benefits to Turin (2006) and Vancouver (2010) are more questionable.

Olympic legacyOlympic legacy













It is too early to judge Sochi (2014).

The figure put on the cost of holding the games was £30billion however Sochi was an exception with ski areas, resorts, road and other transport infrastructure built for a long-term vision for the area.

See here for a PlanetSKI story on the context of the huge costs.

The Olympic Games were just a small part of that, but the price stuck in the public's minds as a cost of holding The Games.

There is a general perception that contracts were awarded by less than 100% honest means as President Putin apparently rewarded his supporters.

Whatever the truth the perception stuck.

Although the Games were deemed a success many visitors and athletes privately said the snow and the sporting conditions were not ideal. 

For the snowsports athletes there are far better slopes to assess their skills than the ski hills around Sochi on the Black Sea at the end of February.

Some now call for the Games to be held where some facilities already exist. 

However the Oslo bid would have included many areas previously used by the Lillehammer Games in 1994.

The uncomfortable truth for the IOC, that it ignores at its peril, seems to be that people think the IOC is arrogant and greedy. 

A perception is growing that it serves the best interests of the IOC rather than the sportsmen, sportswomen and sports fans that it should be serving.

Such a position may, or may not, be true but that is how many see it.

And that is very worrying for anyone that has an interest in sport.

The Olympic movement is approaching a crossroads and Oslo's withdrawal should be examined carefully.

Very carefully.

What is the future?What is the future?








*Below is the full statement from the International Olympic Committee in response to the withdrawal of Oslo.

IOC statement from Christophe Dubi, IOC Executive Director of the Olympic Games.

"This is a missed opportunity for the City of Oslo and for all the people of Norway who are known world-wide for being huge fans of winter sports.

And it is mostly a missed opportunity for the outstanding Norwegian athletes who will not be able to reach new Olympic heights in their home country.

It is a missed opportunity to make the most of the 880 million dollars investment the IOC would have made to the Games that would have built a considerable legacy for the people.

In addition, national sponsorship rights granted by the IOC would have delivered a considerable sum and almost certainly substantially more than the 181 million dollars estimated in the bid.

The most recent editions of the Olympic Winter Games (for instance Vancouver and Sochi), which have all either broken even or made a profit, have made sponsorship revenue four times higher than that.

Earlier this year the Norwegian bid team asked for a meeting with the IOC for an explanation of all aspects of the IOC requirements, including the financial details, and the IOC arranged this for all three bid cities in order to ensure fair play amongst the three bids. 

Unfortunately, Oslo sent neither a senior member of the bid team nor a government official to this meeting.

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.

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.

We will work closely with the Olympic Movement in Norway to make the Lillehammer Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2016 a success for the young athletes."

News update (Sunday 12th October)....

Officials from the IOC will meet with senior representatives from the Norway bid team to see what lessons can be learned.

It is thought the list of requirements needs to be portrayed as advice rather than a string of demands. The public also needs to be made aware of the financial input from the IOC.

Some commentators also believe it needs to look at the role social media can play with people exchanging information and to counter what the IOC sees as mis-informed opinions.

The meeting is expected to take place within the next few weeks and is particulalry important due to the 2016 Youth Winter Games where the two sides will need to work closely together.

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