BERLIN : Hamburg’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics faces a crucial referendum in the Hanseatic city on Sunday with the vote on the Summer Games set to go to the wire.
Hamburg faces stiff competition from Budapest, Paris, Los Angeles and Rome to host the 2024 Olympics with a decision to be made at an International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Peru on September 13, 2017.
Residents in Hamburg and Kiel, where the sailing events are planned to be held, will make their feelings known when the results are revealed on Sunday night — and support seems to be dropping.
According to a survey commissioned by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DSOB) earlier this month, only 56 percent of Hamburg residents wanted their city to host the games — down from 63 percent in September.
In order for the bid to continue, a majority is required and at least 260,000 of the population, some 20 percent, need to vote for Sunday’s final figure to be valid, but nearly 500,000 have already sent in absentee votes.
The DSOB opted for Hamburg over the capital Berlin and the public has the power to veto the plans — as Bavarian residents did in November 2013 when they blocked Munich’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“We are confident about the referendum at the weekend, despite all the outside influences,” said the DOSB chief executive officer Michael Vesper.
The proposed total budget of the mammoth project currently stands at 11.217 billion euros ($11.89b) and would attempt to revitalise Hamburg’s docks with many venues planned to be within walking distance of the city centre.
— Vocal opposition —
Key personalities from across Germany’s sporting landscape, such as Joachim Loew, who coached the football team to their 2014 World Cup triumph, have voiced their support.
But the ‘outside influences’ Vesper mentioned come in the form of Hamburg-based group ‘NOlympics Hamburg: Something Better than the Olympics’ — which has been campaigning hard against the bid.
They point to the staggering cost of hosting a Games, adding that a modern Olympics carries the massive burden of urban development, plus social and environmental issues.
All this while the city of Hamburg currently struggles to complete a number of building projects.
The NOlympics campaign has labelled the Summer Games “a money-burning machine”, which “speeds up gentrification” and is “not sustainable”.
Nevertheless, the idea of hosting an Olympics remains popular with Germany’s youth — whose taxes will ultimately pay for it — as 71 percent, of those between 14 and 29 years of age polled across the country, were in favour.
“The results confirm our impression that people tend to take a now-or-never attitude when it comes to sports events,” said DOSB president Alfons Hoermann.
The recent terror attacks in Paris have brought the question of security for the Hamburg bid into question, but Hamburg major Olaf Scholz has said he will not increase the bid’s security budget for the time being.
“No one can say what will be needed in 2024, which is why I am cautious,” Scholz told the Hamburg Abendblatt newspaper.
“Our calculation is made on the basis of good advice and what we think are very plausible assumptions.”
Currently, 461 million euros have been allocated, significantly down on the 1.7 billion euros London spent on security at the 2012 Olympics, but the figure could well rise.
“This shows that we need to repeatedly update our overview of the situation,” Scholz added.