OSLO (Reuters) - Oslo residents have voted in favor of bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Norwegian capital hoping to bring the event back to the Nordic nation of five million for a third time.
With nearly all the votes counted by Monday night, 55 percent of Oslo voters supported the bid in a city-wide referendum, a big turnaround compared to earlier opinion polls that showed that high costs had turned many voters off.
"They say the budget will be 30 billion crowns ($4.98 billion) so you can expect it to blow out to twice that before we're done," 28-year-old store clerk Frida Nilsen told Reuters. "That seems to be a lot of money for a two-week party."
Only Almaty in Kazakhstan has formally applied to host the 2022 Winter Olympics while Barcelona and Munich are also considering bidding.
Norway has hosted two Winter Olympics before, Oslo in 1952 and Lillehammer in 1994, and said it would rely primarily on existing facilities for the 2022 event.
With a huge offshore oil sector filling state coffers, Norway is one of the few countries in Europe that can actually afford to host an Olympics.
The country has saved up $750 billion in a sovereign wealth fund, or about 150 percent of its gross domestic product, and petroleum revenues are expected to flow into the budget well into the next decade.
Applications for the 2022 Games are due later this year and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is expected to select the host city in 2015.
The next Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia in February.
($1 = 6.0212 Norwegian krones)
(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by John O'Brien)