November 26, 2015 / 2:50 PM / 2 years ago

Hamburg's 2024 Olympic hopes hinge on Sunday referendum

A general view of the Christmas market in front of the historical town hall in Hamburg, November 25, 2013. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Hamburg’s bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics hinges on the result of a referendum on Sunday, with city officials hoping for a strong show of support to boost the chances of Germany’s Olympic newcomer staging the Games.

The northern port city beat Berlin in March to win the German nod and is proposing a compact inner-city concept that bid officials say meets the International Olympic Committee’s recent reforms aimed making the Games cheaper and more sustainable.

Hamburg is the only one of the five candidates to put its plans to a city vote. Rome, Paris, Los Angeles -- all past Olympic hosts -- and Budapest are in the running as well, with the IOC to pick the winner in 2017.

“An event the size of the Olympics can only be staged in agreement with the citizens and the government,” said Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz, who cast his mail vote earlier this week and hopes for a “strong majority result”.

Hamburg’s concept involves the Games being held in the Kleiner Grasbrook area, technically an island but only a 10-minute walk from the city center, that would become the Olympic park and offer short distances to the competition venues for athletes and spectators.

The bid needs a simple majority, as well as at least 20 percent of the registered electorate casting a ‘Yes’ vote if Hamburg is to continue with its two-year campaign.

Critics say the 7.4 billion euro ($7.86 billion) project would be an environmental and financial burden at a time when major sports organizations like world soccer’s governing body FIFA are faced with global corruption, bribery and doping scandals.

The continuing influx of refugees and increased security fears following the Paris attacks have raised further questions over whether an Olympic bid currently makes sense.

The bid is opposed by some environmental and citizens’ groups including Friends of the Earth Germany as well as Hamburg’s second division soccer club St Pauli, whose members voted against it this month.

Germany’s soccer association (DFB) is also mired in a bribery scandal that Hamburg bid chief Nikolas Hill admitted was doing the Hamburg candidacy no favors.

A poll conducted this month before the Paris attacks showed support for the Games at 56 percent, seven percent lower than two months earlier.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) commissioned a nationwide poll after the Paris attacks, noting support had risen for the Games.

“I see a clear positive tendency along the lines of ‘especially now’,” DOSB President Alfons Hoermann told reporters. “The majority seems to share our opinion that fear is not a prospect.”

($1 = 0.9420 euros)

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ian Chadband

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