Olympics-Munich 2022 supporters, opposition brace for referendum

Reuters

By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Olympic supporters and opponents of the Games in Germany are beating the drum ahead of Sunday's referendum to decide whether the Bavarian capital will officially bid for the 2022 winter Olympics.

Munich, aiming to become the first city to host summer and winter Games, failed in its bid to land the 2018 Olympics which were awarded to South Korea's Pyeongchang.

The city, which staged the 1972 summer Games, and the neighbouring Alpine communities are holding a referendum after the German Olympic Committee (DOSB) decided in September to launch another bid.

Olympic leaders in the country have this time tweaked their plans, proposing some events away from the Alpine community of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to reduce opposition from environmental groups.

"It is not as if the International Olympic Committee says to us 'we want you'," double Olympic skiing champion Markus Wasmeier, in favour of the Munich Games as part of the OJa! Munich22 (Oh Yes! Munich22) group, told Reuters Television. "It is the other way around. We want them and that is a major difference."

"There are certain rules and we can think about them however we want to but if we want to have the chance to present ourselves through the IOC to three billion people globally there are certain clauses in the contract."

"Some would say it is an oppressive contract, some say that is how business is done. If we want the Olympics then we have to accept it," said the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics skiing champion.

It is exactly those contractual commitments as well as construction concerns over the impact on the environment and real estate prices that opponents of the Munich bid offer as their arguments against the Games.

HUGE BILL

NOlympia, an organisation that opposed the 2018 bid and does the same with the 2022 candidacy, said the Games were not a boost to the cities but run entirely by the IOC with the local population only footing the bill.

"NOlympia is against the bid because this candidacy is not decided here. Big investors arrive suddenly, influencing the normal development of these areas. There are major interventions in nature and the environment to be expected," its spokesman Axel Doering told Reuters.

The former forest ranger said the commitment of the host city to cover any losses resulting from the Games was also unacceptable.

"They want unlimited loss guarantees. Coverage of unlimited deficits even if fewer people come, even if there is not enough snow."

Munich's chances of landing the Games look good given that apart from Kazakhstan's Almaty, there have not been any other official candidacies yet with the deadline on Nov 14.

Beijing and the northern Chinese city of Zhangjiakou will launch a joint bid for the event, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

Some more are expected, possibly from Poland, Ukraine and Norway. Oslo residents voted in favour of a bid two months ago.

But a clear referendum result in favour of the Games would be a major boost for Munich before the November deadline. If, however, any of the four communities vote against it then the bid is dead in the water.

Munich mayor Christian Ude said the lack of other Alpine cities bidding presented a huge opportunity for Munich, a traditional winter sports hub with the nearby Alps.

He also rejected claims the Games would trigger large construction projects in the fragile Alpine ecosystem, saying 84 percent of venues were already available.

"Everyone must look at the pros and cons and decide for themselves," Ude said. "The city, the state and the federation have come to the conclusion, already from the previous bid, that the pros clearly outweigh the cons."

"This is a unique chances, exactly 50 years after the summer Games of 1972, to become the first city to also host winter Olympics," said Ude. (Additional reporting by Christine Soukenka in Munich, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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