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Germany

Bid to Save Berlin's Iconic Tempelhof Airport Fails

A referendum on keeping Berlin's iconic Tempelhof Airport open has failed to gain the necessary support.

An airplane on the Tempelhof tarmac

Supporters of Tempelhof campaigned long and hard but lost the public vote on its future

The vote, conducted in the German capital Sunday, April 27, secured the support of 21 percent of the city's electorate, against the 25 percent needed for it to be valid. The nonbinding vote had been pushed through by Tempelhof supporters.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said the airport would close, as planned, at the end of October. Wowereit had been a vocal opponent of the effort to keep the airport open and called on Berliners to accept the vote's outcome.

Wowereit's Social Democrats (SPD) and their Left Party coalition partners mounted an energetic last-minute campaign against retaining the airport, characterizing it as "elitist."

The opposition Christian Democratic Union head Friedbert Pflueger pointed out that the SPD had always said that the Tempelhof vote was not binding. But Wowereit should not forget that 100,000 people voted to keep the airport open than had voted for Wowereit in the last election, Pflueger told the N24 television station on Monday.

City center location a problem, say critics

Aerial view of the city airport Tempelhof in Berlin

Tempelhof lies at the very heart of the German capital

Others who have called for its closure say Tempelhof's central location is a nuisance for residents and a security risk due to low-flying planes in a heavily populated area.

They have suggested the creation of a cultural and media center in its terminal and a park to replace its runways.

Tempelhof, Adolph Hitler's showpiece airport built in the 1930s, is said to be the third-largest building complex in the world.

It played a crucial role in the 1948-49 Allied airlift to save West Berlin from being strangled by Russian forces at the start of the Cold War.

The facility only served 630,000 passengers in 2006, compared to 12 million for Tegel Airport on the city's northwestern fringe, and 6 million at Schoenefeld to the southeast.

When Tempelhof and Tegel are closed, the expanded and modernized Schoenefeld facility is to become the capital's sole airport.

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