New National Indoor Sports Stadium to Be Ready in Late 2026

Stadium

The completion date for the new national indoor sports stadium is projected for late 2026 or early 2027, according to Gunnar Einarsson, Chair of the Executive Committee overseeing the project. In an interview with RÚV today, Gunnar revealed plans to advertise an architectural design competition for the stadium as early as next month, contingent upon government approval.

Prepared to advertise architectural design competition

Gunnar Einarsson, Chair of the Executive Committee for the new national indoor sports stadium, estimates the facility will be completed either in late 2026 or early 2027, according to an interview with RÚV today. The new stadium will be constructed behind the current Laugardalshöllin stadium, in the Laugardalur neighbourhood of Reykjavík.

Gunnar also indicated that the Icelandic Handball Federation (HSÍ) is actively considering a bid to host the IHF World Men’s Handball Championship in either 2029 or 2031. “We submitted a feasibility study in December 2022 and have since received the green light from both city and state authorities to proceed with preparations,” he said. “We are essentially prepared to advertise the architectural design competition in October, pending the government’s final decision and authorization.”

Despite the presentation of a new draft budget yesterday, Gunnar confirmed that the project’s funding remains unaffected. “We initially received ISK 100 million [$746,000/€695,000] from the state and an equal amount from the city to kickstart preparations. Those funds are currently being utilised,” he stated, expressing optimism that the government will soon authorise the committee to proceed with advertising the design competition.

Gunnar acknowledged delays in the project timeline but reaffirmed the projected completion date. “While there have been setbacks, we anticipate the stadium’s completion by late 2026 or early 2027,” he said.

As previously noted, the Icelandic Handball Federation (HSÍ) has also shown interest in Iceland hosting a segment of the IHF World Men’s Handball Championship either 2029 or 2031. Gunnar described this aspiration as “highly realistic,” adding that several national matches would likely precede such an event.

President Cites Sagas, Pop Song in Opening Parliamentary Speech

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson discussed the country’s evolving diversity and proposed constitutional changes regarding the Icelandic language at Parliament’s opening session yesterday, Vísir reports. He touched on several historical milestones, emphasised the need to preserve foundational values like freedom of speech and the rule of law in a changing society, and advocated for language integration efforts to assist immigrants.

Many things to remember

Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson highlighted the evolving diversity of Icelandic society and proposed potential changes to the constitution regarding the status of the Icelandic language during the opening of Parliament yesterday, Vísir reports.

He noted that in the upcoming parliamentary session, and throughout the next year, there were numerous important issues to consider, but also, importantly – a lot to remember.

Guðni noted that 2024 would mark a millennium since a pivotal parliamentary speech was given, according to Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, when Einar Þveræingur opposed the ambitions of King Olaf II of Norway to acquire the island of Grímsey.

“A thousand years ago, according to Fóstbræðrasaga, Þorgeir Hávarsson met his end. His mother Þórelfur, as depicted in Halldór Laxness’s masterful Gerpla, proclaimed, ‘Never should a virtuous boy choose peace when war is offered;’ Þorgeir’s pathetic admiration for power is particularly relevant as Russian leaders exert their influence through the violent invasion of a neighbouring nation.”

Furthermore, the President acknowledged several upcoming anniversaries that hold significance for Iceland. January 5 would mark 150 years since Christian IX, then King of Denmark, issued a new constitution for Iceland (a compromise between Iceland’s demand for political autonomy and Danish interests).

He also noted that 2024 would be the 80th anniversary of the Republic of Iceland’s foundation on June 17, during which a new constitution was enacted. This constitution, he observed, still bore the imprint of its origins in a monarchical system. Lastly, Guðni mentioned that next year will commemorate 30 years since the EEA Agreement was implemented in Iceland.

Significant social changes

In his speech, Guðni also acknowledged that Iceland had seen significant societal changes over recent decades, most notably a growing proportion of its population being of foreign origin. “People come here for work or shelter, and if things are done well, society becomes more diverse and beautiful, stronger and more progressive.” He emphasised, however, the importance of preserving foundational values like freedom of speech, the rule of law, and mutual aid in this changing landscape.

Guðni also spoke to the elements of culture that have the potential to unite the nation. “Icelanders possess a language that allows us to understand what was written on a scroll nearly a thousand years ago,” he noted. Expanding on this, he suggested, “The constitution could provide for what is already stated in the law, that Icelandic is the national language of Icelanders and the official language in Iceland.” He called for greater visibility of the Icelandic language in public companies and institutions.

Further, the President emphasised the importance of language integration for those who immigrate to Iceland. He advocated for easier access to Icelandic language courses and additional workplace support, stating, “It is important that Icelanders make it easier for those who move here to learn Icelandic, offer more courses and study materials, and even show increased agility and assistance in the workplace.”

As the parliamentary session commenced, Guðni expressed optimism for productive legislative work. “Now at the beginning of the session, I express the hope that you will be able to work well for the benefit of the country and the people. Certainly, the parliament should be a forum for disagreements and conflicts if the need arises. On that point, it is possible that some people find Bríet’s words in her song about Mt. Esja, appropriate, namely that we go ‘along a single-track road that goes in the wrong direction’ and ‘everything is repeated, yet so much is left unsaid.’”

“Nevertheless, one can hope that a good spirit prevails here, that respect will be given to different points of view, that parliamentarians can enjoy sweet moments between battles, engage in amicable relations, and feel that, despite everything, there is much more that unites us in this country than that divides us.”

Accounts Shed New Detail on Bankastræti Club Attack

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

Five defendants in the high-profile Bankastræti Club attack in Reykjavík have submitted varying accounts to the District Court, ranging from claims of intending only to intimidate the victims to complete ignorance of the planned violence, RÚV reports. Due to the unprecedented number of defendants, the court proceedings will be held in a larger venue, the Gullhamrar banquet hall, from September 25 to October 3.

Denies all allegations

In a case drawing considerable public attention, five defendants involved in last November’s knife attack at the Bankastræti Club in downtown Reykjavík have submitted statements to the Reykjavík District Court. Each of the five defendants offers a different narrative of events leading up to the incident. While some claim they were there to confront and intimidate the victims, others assert they had no prior knowledge of the planned violence.

As noted by RÚV, among the defendants is a man in his 30s who police suspect orchestrated the attack at Bankastræti Club. In his submitted report, he denies all allegations, stating that he initially intended only to intimidate the victims outside the venue. The situation escalated when someone in the group urged everyone to enter the club.

Although he has encountered violence in his role as a doorman, the man insists he is not violent and points to his criminal record as proof. He claims “certain groups” had aimed to remove him from his job to take control of the door supervision (i.e. bouncer services) business he operates. The man also alleges he had been kidnapped and tortured three years ago.

According to the report, the man took security measures, such as placing a fire blanket at his bedroom window to protect against potential petrol bomb attacks. Despite these threats, he has never sought revenge or engaged in violent actions.

On the night in question, his aim was to deter the victims from engaging in “extremely violent behaviour,” as stated in the report. He criticises police investigators for having been bent on painting him as the mastermind of a premeditated attack, despite claims from other defendants that the attack was spontaneous.

Unaware of any weapons

Another defendant stated that the group involved in the incident was fragmented, composed of smaller friend circles that didn’t necessarily interact with one another. As noted by RÚV, court documents corroborate that individuals were participating under different circumstances.

The defendant asserts that he had no prior relationship or conflicts with the victims and minimal interaction with the other accused individuals. He had been persuaded to accompany three friends from Suðurnes to confront the victims, although the report does not specify the intended nature of this confrontation.

The defendant noted that he was only mentioned in police interviews by himself and was unaware of any weapons among the group. He contends that his mere presence at the scene, such as wearing a hat or entering the club, should not constitute grounds for punishment.

Disparate stories among the other three defendants

In his statement, the third defendant explained that he joined the group after an outing with a friend, where they drank beer and played video games. He learned from his friend, a doorman, that people were gathering downtown to intimidate some individuals. Although he followed his friend, he claimed to have stayed at the back of the group and had no intention of active participation. He asserts that he was unaware of any plans beyond scaring the victims to deter them from further threats or attacks.

According to his own account, the fourth defendant was a person of interest for the police and claims to have cooperated fully. He maintains that he was not present on the lower floor of the Bankastræti Club during the incident and was unaware of any plans other than intimidating the victims to cease their threats.

The fifth defendant claims complete ignorance of the event’s particulars, learning of the incident only through next-day media reports. He contends that he could not have posed a threat to the victim as he was not present at the scene.

Larger venue required

Since the number of defendants in the case is unprecedented, the judge had to look outside the district court for suitable accommodation for the main proceedings. The banquet hall Gullhamrar in the Grafarholt neighbourhood of Reykjavík met all the conditions and the main treatment will take place there from September 25 to October 3.

Minister Advocates for Fiscal Restraint in Iceland’s New Budget

Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson

In a budget briefing yesterday, the Finance Minister highlighted increased government earnings while advocating for fiscal restraint to counter inflation. He revealed a multifaceted approach for the upcoming year, which included streamlining state institutions for targeted savings of ISK 17 billion [$129 million / €119 million], revising road taxes to account for the surge in electric vehicles, and adjusting income tax brackets, all against a backdrop of a projected state treasury deficit and rising healthcare costs.

Cautious optimism tempered by financial and demographic challenges

During yesterday’s press conference on the state budget, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson underscored the significance of acknowledging a marked increase in government revenue, which had surpassed earlier projections. He advocated for continued fiscal discipline to mitigate rising inflationary pressures. The goal was to prioritise investments in infrastructure and basic services like the National Hospital and housing. He also revisited plans to streamline state-run institutions, targeting savings of ISK 17 billion [$129 million / €119 million] for next year.

On transportation, Bjarni stressed that the rise in electric vehicles, facilitated by government incentives, had negatively impacted fuel tax revenues. He announced plans for a “new, simpler, fairer, and more transparent system” based on road usage. “It’s time for electric vehicles to participate in maintaining the road network,” he added.

As noted by RÚV, the draft budget reveals a projected state treasury deficit of ISK 46 billion [$344 million / €320 million], primarily due to interest expenses outpacing interest income. However, core operational revenues anticipate a surplus of ISK 28 billion [$209 million / €195 million]. Self-sustaining state entities project a modest surplus in core operations but face a deficit once interest is considered.

Healthcare spending is set to increase significantly, up by ISK 88 billion [$658 million / €612 million] since 2017 and ISK 14 billion [$105 million / €97 million] compared to last year. Factors like tourism, population growth, and an ageing population are cited as key drivers.

An 8.5% adjustment in income tax brackets by year’s end is expected to reduce the average income tax by about ISK 7,000 [$52 / €49]. Bjarni also noted the reimplementation of the overnight stay tax in 2024 – revoked in 2020 due to the pandemic – extending it to cruise ships.

Total state expenditure for the next year is estimated at ISK 1,480 billion [$11 billion / €10.3 billion]. The budget draft shows a 22.3% increase in financial costs and a 14.8% rise in hospital services. Funding for innovation has decreased the most, by 9.7%, followed by a similar reduction in foreign affairs.

Overall, the budget suggests a cautious optimism tempered by financial and demographic challenges.

Briefly on the budget: According to constitutional provisions, disbursements from the state treasury can only be made if authorised in the annual budget or a supplementary spending bill. The budget undergoes a rigorous legislative process: the Minister of Finance introduces the draft budget to Parliament during its first autumn session, typically held on the second Tuesday in September. Following this, the draft undergoes three rounds of parliamentary debates before it is usually finalized and approved in December.