Cost Concerns

Hamburg Rejects Olympic Bid

Nolympia grafitti Alexandra Bakmaz dpa
Hamburgers went with Nolympia, or No to the Olympic bid, amid cost concerns.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Hamburg’s decision not to host the Olympic Games means Germany may not host a major sporting event this generation – but can channel resources into the refugee crisis.

  • Facts


    • In yesterday’s referendum over the 2024 Olympics, 650,000 people voted; 52 percent against bidding to host the games.
    • Germany is divided over the Chancellor’s decision to accept more than 1 million refugees to the country this year amid widespread concerns about the cost.
    • It would have cost Hamburg €11.2 billion, or $12.6 billion, to host the Olympic Games though it was unclear how this would be divided between the national and the city governments.
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Hamburg has voted narrowly against bidding to host the Olympics in 2024, with just half of the northern port city’s citizens taking part in a binding referendum that has nixed Germany’s chances at winning the Games for a generation.

The people of Hamburg and Kiel were going to jointly bid to host the Games, but in a referendum on Sunday, 51.6 percent of citizens voted no. Only in Kiel, the city on the north German coast, which was to have hosted the sailing and rowing competitions, did 65.6 percent of people vote in favor.

Support had eroded in the past few months amid concerns in Hamburg about funding, about security in light of the Paris attacks, about a growing German soccer scandal, and about the growing influx of refugees.

The result met not surprise but disappointment in the rest of Germany, which will now be unable to enter the bidding. Budapest, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome remain in the running to host the 2024 Games and a decision will be made in September 2017.

Late on Sunday night, early indicators suggested voters would be in favor of a bid to host the Olympics, for which there had been stronger support of nearly two-thirds of the population as late as September. In March, Hamburg beat the German capital Berlin to win the right to bid for hosting what would have been its first Games.

A key figure in leading the bid, Hamburg’s mayor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, said he accepted the decision. “Hamburg will not bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I would have liked a different decision, but the result is clear and has to be accepted.”

Mr. Scholz added that he was not planning to resign and would not discuss any wider fallout from the result. He had been criticized for pushing ahead with a project that many saw as too expensive. According to estimates, it would have cost €11.2 billion, or $12.7 billion, to host the Games, of which 75 percent would have come from taxpayers.

The decision comes at a sensitive time as Germany faces an influx of refugees fleeing war and poverty. It remains unclear how cities, states and the federal government will fund the housing and integration of the rising numbers of people.

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