Oslo latest city to drop out of 2022 Olympic race

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Posted: Oct 01, 2014 3:52 PM
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.

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 across Europe 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 to the bid.

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."

"The Olympics would have been great, they would have been fun but there are lots of other important matters that we have to deal with," Solberg added.

After the vote, the city of Oslo withdrew its application for government financial backing.

"I was very surprised, fed up and disappointed," Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg said. "I had hoped that we could have been successful and gone forward at least a few steps."

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. Official bid files must be submitted by Jan. 7.

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.

On paper, 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.

Oslo was selected by the IOC in July as a finalist in the bidding, along with Almaty and Beijing. An IOC working group report gave Oslo the highest technical ratings of the three cities.

The IOC knew at the time that Oslo faced significant political and public opposition, but hoped the bid could secure support by the end of the year. But concerns over the cost of the games and public antipathy toward the IOC proved insurmountable.

Cities have been put off by the $51 billion 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.

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Associated Press writers Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki and Simon Haydon in London contributed to this report.

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