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Helsinki, state to split €80m in extra budget costs of Olympic Stadium renovation

Parliament is set to decide on the extra funding as it examines the government's third supplementary budget on Thursday.

The renovated Helsinki Olympic Stadium, file photo. Image: Juha Kivioja/Yle

The final cost of renovating Helsinki's historic Olympic Stadium, which greatly exceeded anticipated levels, is expected to be jointly paid for by the Finnish state and the City of Helsinki.

That's according to Esko Ranto, director general of the Department for Youth and Sport Policy at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The government announced its third supplementary budget of 2.4 billion euros on Tuesday, a proposal that included around 38 million euros to cover some of the over-budget costs of the stadium project.

Parliament is scheduled to discuss and vote on the supplementary budget on Thursday. The topic of the additional funding created heated debate among city council members last month before the decision was made to share the costs with the state.

The final price of the five-year stadium renovation ballooned by more than 100 million euros from original expectations to a final cost of nearly 337 million euros.

Costs were increased by, among other things, ensuring the facility's security measures were in line with requirements of the Union of European Football Associations, UEFA. There was also extensive underground construction which raised the final price tag.

"There are always surprises"

The ministry's Ranto noted that the Olympic Stadium was a nationally significant and culturally valuable site.

"Renovation of a valuable object was obviously important. It was also important that the renovation made the stadium as versatile as possible in the future," Ranto said.

The ministry's sports division director, Tiina Kivisaari, attributed some of the budget increases to rises in construction costs following an upturn in the sector. She said that when the initial budget for the project was agreed upon in 2014, decision makers did not take into consideration possible increases in construction costs over the course of the project.

During the years of the project, 2015-2020, the construction sector saw a particularly strong upturn in business, prompting steady rises in labour and material costs.

Kivisaari also said that there were numerous surprises during the renovation process, with work turning out to be considerably more demanding than anticipated, including underground excavations and additional work on concrete structures.

"There are always surprises during renovations of culturally historic and valuable old sites," she said.

At the beginning of this year, the National Audit Office reported that the cost of the renovation project was more than 100 million euros than originally anticipated.

In its report, the audit office criticised the effort's steering committee as well as the City of Helsinki for a lack of transparency.

Previous to that, it was reported in the autumn of 2019 there were several shortcomings regarding the project's subcontractors.

At the time, the Finnish Construction Trade Union said hundreds of workers at the site had been working under conditions that were not compliant with collective agreements, with more than a dozen subcontractors found to have underpaid workers.