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Olympic Stadium renovation price ballooned by more than €100m, audit finds

In 2016, the budget was estimated at about 197 million euros, but the final price tag was nearly 337 million euros. 

Helsingin Olympiastadion uudistuksen jälkeen
The renovated Olympic Stadium seen from above, file photo. Image: Juha Kivioja / Yle

The final cost of renovating Helsinki's landmark Olympic Stadium was more than 100 million euros than originally anticipated, according to an audit by the National Audit Office of Finland (NAOF).

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

According to city figures, the final price tag of renovating the stadium was nearly 337 million euros.

When work began on the project in 2016, the total cost was estimated at around 197 million euros, but just one year later in 2017, the estimate had already risen to 260 million euros. Costs then continued to rise.

The project was completed and the historic facility reopened last summer, and the effort garnered the prestigious Finlandia Prize for Architecture.

However, an investigation by Svenska Yle found that there were problems regarding the compensation of construction workers as well as other shortcomings.

The NAOF's audit placed particular emphasis on how state funds for the project were granted, used and monitored.

The auditors concluded that the city's steering committee did not carry out its duties competently, finding that the monitoring of the increasing costs was inadequate.

The report said that the project did not have a maximum budget in place, but instead found that funding levels were changed as additional work was approved--a practice the auditors noted was contrary to state financing guidelines.

Oversight shortcomings

The City of Helsinki was also criticised for not providing adequate transparency about the invoices exchanged between the end client and financier.

In a statement, the NAOF's senior auditor, Olli Piiroinen, underscored the importance of long-term monitoring of such projects.

"The use of public funds must be transparent and cost effective. Therefore, diverse and long-term projects must be adequately monitored," Piiroinen said.

A statement on the matter issued on Tuesday by the city attributed the project's increased costs to a "strong upward cycle boosting building contract prices."

The city also said the project involved unexpected additions to the work involved in getting the job done, noting that some of the work was "far more demanding than expected and envisioned during its careful planning."

"Examples of such new factors were the more extensive and demanding rock quarrying and reinforcement work, replacement of structures with moisture damage as well as additional concrete structure work both in the new and the refurbishment segments," the statement read.

The city noted that demand for use of the facility was high and that several sporting events and concerts are planned for this and coming years.

The stadium is estimated to generate more than 1,100 jobs and 132 million euros in revenue per year, according to the city.

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