- Lack of support follows Bavaria's rejection of Winter Games
- Hamburg Olympics would have been first in Germany in 52 years
Hamburg dropped out of the race to host the 2024 Olympic Games after its citizens vetoed a bid by a narrow majority in a referendum on Sunday, leaving the field to four remaining candidates including Los Angeles and Paris.
Results showed 51.6 percent of voters rejected the 11 billion-euro ($11.7 billion) plan to stage the world’s largest sporting event. That marks a turnaround in sentiment compared with 56 percent of Hamburgers who said they approved in a November survey.
Public support waned, with the government citing the burden posed by the current influx of refugees, the corruption scandal surrounding the FIFA soccer association, and fears of further terror attacks in the wake of the Nov. 13 atrocities in Paris as sticking points. Opponents of the bid said cost concerns contributed to the lack of majority support.
“I’m very disappointed,” Olaf Scholz, Hamburg’s mayor, said in an interview on NDR public radio. “We know that the circumstances aren’t as we would have wished for for such a decision given the huge numbers of refugees that we have to manage, the discussion about corruption in the soccer world or the attacks in Paris.”
It’s the second time in two years that Germans have rejected bids to host Olympic Games after residents in the southern state of Bavaria two years ago scratched an attempt to pitch for the 2022 Winter Games on cost and environmental concerns. About 1.3 million people were asked to vote in Hamburg, which is the richest of Germany’s 16 states.
In opposing the bid, Hamburg’s citizens are also rejecting a plan to spur new real-estate development at its heart, reviving a partly disused island in the port that would have created thousands of new residential units and provided a 15,000-seat Olympic Hall to be turned into a fourth cruise terminal after the sporting event.
Hamburg was one of the venues for the 2006 World Cup soccer tournament held in Germany. Controversy surrounds the awarding of the license to Germany to host that event amid reports in recent weeks that German organizers may have paid third parties to vote in its favor, an allegation the country’s soccer association has rejected.
“It’s a democratic decision that must be accepted unconditionally,” said Alfons Hoermann, the president of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, in a statement. “It has always been clear that a bid can’t succeed without the majority support of the people of Hamburg.”
With a program known as Agenda 2020, the International Olympic Committee is seeking to tone down the cost of hosting the event, following the record $51 billion spent on last year’s Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The IOC plans to select the 2024 host city during a meeting in September 2017 in Peru. Hamburg, which beat Berlin in a German contest to become the country’s candidate, was up against three European cities including Paris, Rome and Budapest as well as 1984 host Los Angeles, none of which plan to hold a plebiscite to endorse their bid.
Hamburg would have been the first German city to host the Games since Munich in 1972. Germany is also the country among the world’s four biggest economies with the longest absence from the Olympic stage.