Week of truth for Hamburg Olympic bid – opponents see their chance


By Benjamin Haller and Franko Koitzsch 

Residents in Hamburg go to the polls Sunday in a referendum on their city’s Olympic bid. The support rate has dropped lately, opponents are gaining confidence – and possible concerns after the Paris terror attacks are the big unknown.

Hamburg’s Olympic bid team is in a deciding week as support for 2024 Games in the city appears to be dwindling ahead of a referendum set for Sunday.

And that doesn’t even include possible additional concerns in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris.

Support has dropped from 64 per cent in spring to 56 per cent lately as opponents see growing chances of stopping the bid – just as an attempt by Munich to get the 2022 Winter Olympics was vetoed by the public.

Local council sports official Christoph Holstein remains upbeat, saying “the atmosphere in the districts remains pro Olympia” and expecting a good result Sunday.

Holstein does admit that the past months with major scandals around football’s ruling body FIFA, the 2006 World Cup in Germany and widespread doping in Russia have not made things easier.

That also applies to the November 13 attacks in Paris and the cancellation of a Germany friendly four days later in Hanover over a terror threat.

Holstein hopes that the people of Hamburg and the sailing venue of Kiel will go to the polls in a defiant mood and say “we will not be intimidated. Olympia: now more than ever!”

Hamburg sports union chief Juergen Mantell is optimistic as well, telling dpa that “despite difficult conditions … I believe we will stay at 64 per cent – and more.”

Mantell had in the past even hoped for a support rate of 70 per cent, and the Paris events will likely further add to more modesty.

After all, Hamburg political scientist Kai-Uwe Schnapp said it was impossible to foresee a possible Paris effect.

“It has more to do with the psychological disposition of the people than their political view or their basic feelings towards Olympics,” Schnapp said.

Hamburg is competing with a compact concept of inner-city Games against Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Budapest, with the deciding vote by the International Olympic Committee in 2017.

Schnapp also warned that the support voiced in the traditional media such as television, radio and print publications may not be an accurate reflection of the realities.

“The view is completely different on Facebook and Twitter,” he said.

Not as united as around the Munich referendum, Hamburg nay-sayers agree that the Games are too expensive but are then divided into opposition for various other reasons ranging from the environment and sustainability to feared major hikes in housing prices.

The various opponents cover the Left and Greens parties, members of second division football club St Pauli, scientists and other activists who voice their view on a multitude of platforms.

Juergen Seifert, who once founded the NOlympia movement before handing the leadership to others, said the timing prevented a more organised approach.

“First everyone believed that Berlin would become the German candidate. Then came the holidays, and then the financial report took ages to be published,” Seifert said.

The overall budget of 11.2 billion euros (11.9 billion dollars) led to some raised eyebrows, with the amount of federal support yet to be finalised and others nmaing the estimates for areas like security too low although the bid team insists that the highest estimate was used everywhere.

The emerging details of the bid make Florian Kasiske of NOlympia confident that the bid can be stopped in the poll in which only German citizens are allowed to participate, and not the many foreigners living in the port city.

“The more the population has heard about the Olympic bid the more sceptical it becomes,” Kasiske said.

Courtesy DPA

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