New Hamburg 2024 Leadership Will Face Daunting Referendum

Bernhard Schwank (left) and Nikolas Hill chosen to lead the Bid Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024 in Hamburg. (DOSB Photo)

Bernhard Schwank (left) and Nikolas Hill chosen to lead the Bid Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024 in Hamburg. (DOSB Photo)

A referendum on Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games is expected to take place November 29.  Hamburg’s Interior and Sport Senator Michael Neumann said Sunday, when announcing the decision to put the bid to the Hamburg public, “we do that in the confidence that our application is particularly good”.

Meanwhile the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has announced that Nikolas Hill and Bernhard Schwank will lead Hamburg’s 2024 bid.  The DOSB said Tuesday that Hill will serve as CEO of Hamburg 2024, while Schwank, who was involved in Munich’s bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, has been appointed director of sport and international.  The remainder of the bid committee will formalized in the coming weeks.

Hill, a lawyer, was recently State of the Ministry of Justice and Equality.

“In Nikolas Hill and Bernhard Schwank, we have a powerful team,” DOSB President Alfons Hörmann and the Hamburg Interior and Sport Senator Michael Neumann declared in an announcement.

“Mr. Hill brings a lot of experience from the management of complex projects with Hamburg; Mr Schwank has already shaped the Munich Olympic bid significantly and is well connected in international sport.

“Both will be working on the project immediately.”

Bernhard Schwank who was CEO for Munich 2018 and has now been appointed director of sport and international relations of Hamburg 2024 (GB Photo)

Bernhard Schwank who was CEO for Munich 2018 and has now been appointed director of sport and international relations of Hamburg 2024 (GamesBids Photo)

The first critical step for the bid committee will be to rouse the tepid public support ahead of the binding referendum.  A poll in March revealed 64% supported Hamburg’s bid for the Olympic Games – currently enough to keep the city in the running.  But should support diminish and a majority not be won at the November referendum, the bid would have to withdraw ending Germany’s shot at the Games.

In 2013 voters in Germany’s Munich opposed their city’s bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games forcing organizers to withhold the planned application to host.  Later a referendum in Krakow had negative results forcing the Polish city’s 2022 bid committee to abandon all plans mid-campaign.

Hamburg’s bid rival Boston has also planned a binding referendum for November 2016, and this week rumours in the local press suggested that bid Chief John Fish is set to be replaced by Bain Capital executive and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca due to dwindling public support.

In response, opposition group “No Boston 2024” criticized the possible move.

“The public’s opposition to Boston2024 is about the bid itself, not about who is delivering the message,” a statement claimed.

“A change in leadership doesn’t change the fact that the bid requires building the three most expensive Olympic venues from scratch. Boston2024 remains a risky deal that asks taxpayers to foot the bill for cost overruns.”

September 15 is the deadline for cities to announce their bids for the 2024 Games, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is set to elect the host city in 2017.

Along with Hamburg and Boston, other bid cities include Rome with Paris expected to join the race after city council voted in favour of a bid last month.  Budapest has also met with the IOC discussing a possible bid.

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