Hamburg voters reject pursuit of 2024 Olympic bid
BERLIN — The rejection of Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Olympics marks a "missed opportunity" for the city and Germany, IOC President Thomas Bach said Monday.
Hamburg withdrew its bid Sunday after it was defeated in a referendum by voters in the northern port city. The vote was 51.6 percent against, and 48.4 percent in favor.
"The IOC of course respects the close vote by the citizens of Hamburg," Bach said in a statement. "We regret the decision, which should be seen in the light of the very particular and difficult circumstances the referendum was held in. This is a missed opportunity for Hamburg and Germany."
The vote came as Germany copes with an influx of migrants and refugees, a situation that Bach said "requires a great effort by German government and society and is causing widespread feelings of uncertainty."
He also said the result may have been influenced by current doping and corruption scandals in sports. Without citing any by name, Bach alluded to the scandals surrounding FIFA, allegations of bribery involving Germany’s winning bid for the 2006 World Cup, and doping and corruption charges facing the IAAF and track and field.
"This is a pity," Bach said, adding that the IOC applies strict anti-corruption rules.
The IOC president said the Hamburg vote was "greatly influenced" by the issue of how the games would be financed. Hamburg’s operating budget of 3.4 billion euros ($3.6 billion) was "very well balanced," with the IOC planning to contribute $1.7 billion to the project, Bach said.
Hamburg’s withdrawal leaves four cities in contention: Rome, Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest, Hungary. The IOC will select the host city in September 2017.
"The IOC is proud to have four strong candidate cities," Bach said.
A spokeswoman for Angela Merkel said the German chancellor regretted the decision by Hamburg voters.
Merkel "took note of the results of the vote in Hamburg, and the chancellor finds this decision regrettable but of course she respects the will of the people," government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters in Berlin.
"That’s why referendums are held — to find out what the population wants, and obviously Hamburgers don’t want the Olympics," Wirtz said.