People in Hamburg and Kiel are voting in a referendum on Hamburg’s bid to host the Olympics in 2024. Opinion polls point to a majority of ‘yes’ votes, but costs and security concerns have boosted the ‘no’ camp.
Polling stations in both cities opened on Sunday morning and will be open until 6:00 p.m. local time (17:00 UTC). Up to 1.3 million people could cast their votes in Germany’s biggest port city. At midday, turnout in Hamburg was high. Many voters had also cast their vote via postal ballot.
Nearly 200,00 people in the northern port city of Kiel are also eligible to vote as the sailing competitions would take place there if the bid goes ahead and is successful.
Hamburg is one of the cities planning a bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Games have not been hosted in Germany since the infamous 1972 Summer Games in Munich that were overshadowed by a massacre killing 11 Israeli athletes, a German police officer and five Palestinian terrorists.
A bid to host the Winter Games in Munich in 2022 failed to get off the ground after Munich voted ‘no’ in a referendum.
Hamburg’s senate estimates the costs of hosting the two events at around 11.2 billion euros ($11.9 billion), with revenues forecast at around 3.8 billion euros.
Critics are concerned about where the funds would come from, as Hamburg’s mayor, Olaf Scholz, has already said Hamburg could only come up with 1.2 billion euros. The remainder would have to come from the federal government, which, so far, has not made a firm commitment to that effect.
Hamburg lawmaker Walter Scheuerl tweeted: “Storm over Hamburg. This is not for the faint-hearted and ‘Yes’ sayers. Stop the waste of billions on the Olympics today!”
The ‘no’ camp is also concerned about security following the recent terror attacks in Paris.
Those in favor of the bid – like Bayern Munich defender Philip Lahm – took to Twitter to point out that “everyone stands to gain from such unique events, vote ‘yes'”
The German Olympic Sports Federation (DOSB) needs more than a simple majority of 50 percent-plus to be able to launch a bid. If fewer than 20 percent of all eligible voters in Hamburg and 8 percent in Kiel vote ‘yes,’ it has to withdraw the bid.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will decide on the host country for the 2024 Olympics next year in Lima, Peru. Budapest, Paris, Rome and Los Angeles are also planning to launch a bid.
Results are expected after 10:00 p.m. Sunday.
ng/jlw (dpa, AP)