Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games enjoyed over 64 per cent support in a poll just weeks ago, but the positive numbers were seen eroding ahead of Sunday’s stunning referendum defeat and 51.6 percent voted against Germany’s Olympic proposal.
Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz conceded the defeat at about 21:00 local time Sunday before all of the votes were counted but after the decision was statistically sealed.
“The people of Hamburg took a decision and Hamburg will not be bidding to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” he announced.
“The senate and myself would have wished a different result but it is clear.”
A crucial day is coming to an end – 48,3% 'Yes' votes in Hamburg are not enough to stay in the bidding process for the Games 2024.
— Hamburg 2024 (@2024Hamburg) November 29, 2015
When all of the results were in 335,638 entered ‘no’ votes against 314,468 for the ‘yes’ side.
Bid CEO Nikolas Hill said in a call with reporters “we expected a different result.”
“The result nevertheless is clear for us, we have to accept it. There will be no discussion or rethinking it. That is it. That is what they wanted.”
“The result is a bitter pill for us to swallow, but a democratic decision must simply be accepted.”
But Hill blamed external influences for causing the recent erosion in support that dropped the ‘yes’ vote below the required 50 per cent need for the bid to continue.
“The attacks in Paris, the soccer crisis, the refugee situation, the doping scandals – they did not have anything to do with this but it has been irritating and disturbing people,” he said with disappointment.
Hill added that the referendum results could make it difficult for Germany to launch new bids for future Games.
While Hamburg’s ‘no’ vote effectively ended the bid, another referendum was held in Kiel where the sailing events were proposed to take place. There, 65.6 per cent voted in support of the bid.
“We would like to thank the citizens of Kiel for their Yes and regret that we cannot embark on bidding to host the 2024 Olympics and Paralympic Games on their behalf,” Hill said in a statement.
In a statement issued Sunday evening No Boston Olympics, the opposition group for the former Boston 2024 Olympic bid, said “the trend around the world is the same one we all saw in Boston: the more voters learn about Olympic bids, the less they like them.”
Leaders of the Boston group traveled to Hamburg last month to meet with the NOlympia Hamburg opposition group – at the time public support for the bid was polling above 60 per cent.
“Citizens across the globe are saying loudly and clearly that they have more important priorities than throwing a three-week party for the undemocratic, unaccountable International Olympic Committee,” the No Boston Olympics statement said.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has been fighting an uphill battle to regain international trust for the Olympic movement after a string of Games that suffered from steep cost over runs – a problem that he claims is a communication issue and one he is trying to resolve with a series of Agenda 2020 reforms that were introduced last year. But with Hamburg’s defeat and earlier losses of Boston and Toronto over referendum fears, it seems bid reforms are not working as planned.
Still Budapest, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome remain in contention with no further referendums planned and a USD $1.7 billion IOC investment going to the winning city. The next milestone for the bidders will be to submit financial guarantees to the IOC by February 17.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.