SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Oslo would limit the bill for hosting the 2022 Olympics to around $5 billion, bid officials said on Monday, seeking to dispel doubts in Norway about staging a third Winter Games.
The Norwegian capital is a strong candidate after Western European rivals in Switzerland and Germany opted not to run and Stockholm pulled out shortly after bidding. Public unease over the price and environmental impact of the Games put them off.
“Maybe the cost, the investment in Sochi, have frightened them a little bit,” said Gerhard Heiberg, a Norwegian member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as he presented the bid.
Russia has spent more than $50 billion on the Olympics and related plans to turn the Black Sea resort of Sochi into an all-year round tourism destination.
Heiberg said Norway, a wealthy country where skiing is a sporting passion, could guarantee a compelling Games.
“This is a good, safe place where everybody knows that the Games will be a success and that will benefit the image of the Olympic movement,” he said.
A Games in Norway would buck the trend of taking the Olympics to emerging economies in recent years.
With revenues from the oil industry filling state coffers, Norway is one of the few countries in Europe that can comfortably afford to host an Olympics.
However, it faces a struggle to persuade its own people to embrace the Games, with support of around 55 percent in a referendum held in Oslo last year.
“We are going to move forward with our national campaign of getting support for a bid,” Oslo city mayor Stian Berger Roesland told reporters, adding that polls showed young people were particularly enthusiastic about bringing back the Games.
Pressed on costs, officials said the total bill would be around $5.4 billion, including $2 billion of private investment to build the athletes village and media centre.
Oslo staged the 1952 Games, while the ski resort of Lillehammer, two hours drive away, was the 1994 host.
Under plans for 2022, events including the prestigious Alpine skiing races would again be held in Lillehammer despite the distance between it and the capital.
Heiberg, who led the 1994 organizing committee, said that improved road and rail links since then would make journeys between the two bases easier.
“The time factor is not as important as it used to be,” Heiberg said.
The Winter Games often involve events staged in city and mountain bases that can be quite far apart.
The IOC will decide on the 2022 venue next year, giving the host time to build facilities. Other bidders are Beijing, the Polish city of Krakow, Lviv in Ukraine and Kazakhstan’s Almaty.
Editing by Peter Rutherford