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For Olympics, De Maiziere says Germans 'all Hamburgers'

Germany’s interior minister has called for support of Hamburg's Olympic bid. Thomas de Maiziere says there are many good reasons to bring the games to Germany for the first time in 52 years.

Hamburg faces Boston and Rome, with Paris, Baku, Doha and Istanbul potentially joining before a September 15 deadline set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will pick the host in 2017. Hamburg beat Berlin in an internal vote by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) on Monday, with the full membership expected to ratify the decision in Frankfurt on March 21.

"We are all Hamburgers for the Olympics from today onwards," Interior Minister De Maiziere said.

The minister pledged full government support and dismissed speculation that Hamburg would pale in comparison to the competition to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024. The city lost a 2003 bid for the 2012 Olympics to Leipzig, which ultimately lost to London. The Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that "Hamburg's position in international sports policy doesn't appear strong enough," but Der Spiegel published on its website that "Hamburg deserves a chance."

De Maiziere pleaded for unity, saying that the Olympics would "have a positive impact on the state, the economy and society." He added: "Olympic Games in Germany strengthen our patriotism."

'Know the costs'

A recent poll suggested that 64 percent of Hamburg's 1.7 million population support the bid, but residents will have their say in a referendum. DOSB members will not want to repeat the scenario that happened two years ago, when voters in Munich ended the city's bid for 2022 Winter Games. Opponents such as the (N)Olympia movement have prepared to plead their case.

"We want to know the costs and discuss them," Hamburg (N)Olympia chief Dirk Seifert said on Tuesday. "We have a meeting on April 11 in which rising rents and usage of urban space is on the agenda. The teachers' union and environmental groups were critical."

Hamburg would need 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) for construction alone, and more details of the budget should come on Saturday in Frankfurt. Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz has promised "a compact, sustainable that are free from any gigantism and will be an excellent fit in the urban development."

The city would convert part of the port into an Olympic park, constructing a stadium for 70,000. The Athletes Village would become a municipal district. Cruise liners would supplement Hamburg's not-quite-16,000 existing hotel beds: The IOC requires a minimum of 42,000.

Hamburg would build venues for swimming, canoeing and rugby, among other sports centers. Previous Olympics - such as those held in Montreal, Beijing and Athens - have left largely unused structures known as white elephants, or pricey and garish constructions, in the wake of the games.

mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, sid)

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