Sunday’s Referendum on Hamburg 2024 Olympic Bid Expected To Be Close

The "Yes" campaign logo for the Hamburg 2024 referendum
The “Yes” campaign logo for the Hamburg 2024 referendum

Hamburg 2024 is holding a public referendum Sunday in which about 1.3 million people in Hamburg and the nearby port city of Kiel, where the sailing events would be held, will decide whether they want the city to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

Leaders of the bid reportedly hope that the FIFA football scandal, risk of cost overruns and fears of terrorism won’t dissuade voters from backing the bid.

More than 40 per cent of those eligible to vote have already voted through a postal ballot.

German Olympic Sports Confederation president Alfons Hoermann said Thursday, “the excellent turnout that has emerged shows the Olympic Games project has been taken on by the city”.

However insiders have hinted to that they expect the results to be very close.

According to AP the German interior minister Thomas De Maziere said voters should not be intimidated by the attacks in Paris or a terror scare in Hannover that prompted him to call off a football friendly between Germany and the Netherlands last week.  He also referred to the ongoing scandal involving the German football federation after it was alleged that bribes helped Germany secure the hosting rights to the 2006 World Cup.

A dispute over sharing costs between the state and local governments has not yet been settled, but De Maziere said talks were going well.  He said, “it concerns a lot of money and we’ll reach an agreement in the end”.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) deadline for the submission of phase 1 of the bid book along with financial guarantees is February 17.

Proponents for Hamburg 2024 have been campaigning heavily for a yes-vote
Proponents for Hamburg 2024 have been campaigning heavily for a yes-vote

According to organizers, the cost of hosting the Games is 11.2 billion Euros (USD $11.9 billion).  The Hamburg senate wants the government to contribute 6.2 billion Euros ($6.6 billion) while the city contributes 1.2 billion ($1.3 billion). Revenues of 3.8 billion Euros ($4 billion) is expected to make up the rest.

Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz said,”any approval over 50 per cent is democratic legitimization to carry on.  We want to be successful on Sunday.  We want to be successful in 2017″.

The referendum results will be revealed Sunday night, but there are reports that support appears to be dropping in the run-up to the vote.

Opposition groups have taken to social media to share their concerns, using hashtag #nolympia to try to sway the referendum results.

In order for the bid to continue, a majority yes-vote is required, as well as the support of at least 260,000 people or 20 per cent of the city-state’s population.  Nearly 500,000 have already sent in absentee votes.

Hoerman promised that if voters approved the bid, the committee would “secure he backing of countless prominent faces in Germany’s sporting world”.

Hamburg was nominated ahead of Berlin in Germany to bid for the Games as the sport authority (DOSB) favoured Hamburg in part because it had stronger public support.  Earlier this year 64 per cent polled said they support an Olympic bid.  However, other polls have shown that residents would prefer to host the UEFA Euro 2024 for which Germany is also in the running, and it is unlikely both large events could be hosted the same year.

In 2013 a referendum derailed Munich’s bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games just days before the nomination deadline, even as the city was considered a favourite to win.  In the following months four other European cities dropped out of the race for various political and economic reasons.  Krakow, one the those cities, was forced to withdraw after losing a referendum where almost 70 per cent opposed the bid after 36 per cent of those eligible cast ballots.

Germany last staged the Games in 1972 in Munich and 1936 in Berlin.

Hamburg is up against Paris, Rome, Los Angeles and Budapest for the 2024 Games.  The IOC will select the host city in Lima, Peru in September 2017.

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