BANGKOK (Reuters) - Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who won a record 13th Winter Olympics medal in Sochi this year, has urged the IOC to push ahead with plans to change the bidding process after Oslo dropped out of the running to host the 2022 Games.
Bjoerndalen, named as the outstanding male athlete in Sochi at Friday’s inaugural Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) awards in Thailand, said he was still upset that Oslo withdrew, leaving Beijing and Kazakhstan as the only candidates.
But the 40-year-old said he hoped some good would come from Norway’s pullout and the International Olympic Committee would make the Games more affordable for countries with less money but a rich sporting heritage.
“All sportsmen in Norway are really disappointed,” Bjoerndalen said. “I’m really sorry for that, but there was too much negativity around the situation. I hope we can try another time.”
Oslo’s decision to drop out heightened the issue of the astronomical cost of staging the Olympics and accelerated a proposal by IOC president Thomas Bach to reform the process.
Bjoerndalen said the proposed changes, which will be voted on in December, came too late to save Norway’s bid campaign, leaving the Scandinavians watching China and Kazakhstan fight it out.
“It was too late. If we had one more year, I think it would have been a different answer for Norway,” he said.
“It’s different cultures. To make (the) Olympics in Beijing, China, and in Norway is totally different.
“We have a lot of experience about winter competition, and we need other protocols to make the Winter Olympics compared to the Summer Olympics.”
Meanwhile Russia, which won the award for the most successful nation at Sochi after topping the medals table, said it could bid for the Summer Olympics in the future.
Russia spent a reported $51 billion on the Sochi Olympics and, while there are no immediate plans to bid for the Summer Games, Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov did not rule it out.
“I think it’s possible for the future because Russia has a very good tradition in the major sports competitions, like Summer and Winter Olympics,” he told reporters.
“In the last few years, we’ve had a lot of major world championships, swimming, athletics, and we’ll have the football World Cup in 2018, so it’s possible.”
Editing by Ken Ferris