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Sports

Hamburg warms up for its Olympic mission

A month ago Germany's sports authorities decided that Hamburg would be the country's bidding city for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Now, the legwork is being done in the city to muster support.

The Elbchaussee is one of the most exclusive streets in Hamburg. With over nine kilometers of impressive villas and parks, the area shows the sort of wealth the city has accumulated over the years.

One of the most scenic addresses on this stretch is home to the Hamburg Business Club. Marks from paint bombs show that not everyone appreciates the financial success here though. It's also possible the fly-by-night graffiti comes from anti-Olympic campaigners. Sports functionaries, politicians and business people gather on Tuesday to discuss the city's official bid for the 2024 Summer Games.

Inside, up on the podium, stands the President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) Alfons Hörmann, and Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz. Through the windows behind them the lights of the city's harbor are visible. Just out of sight is the area of the harbor that is set to be turned into the athletes village, should Hamburg be awarded the 2024 games by the IOC in 2017.

"IOC will only go where it is welcome"

Until then, Scholz and Hörmann will continue pushing Hamburg as the best option for the Olympics. They will meet with International Olympic Committee members on April 23 in Sochi. Hörmann says that the DOSB is excited by Hamburg's Olympic concept. The reason Hamburg beat Berlin a month ago was clear, according to the DOSB chief. In Berlin, the Olympics was one of many topics confronting the populous, while in Hamburg it was the number one issue.

Alfons Hörmann and Olaf Scholz sit down for a chat at the Hamburg Business Club

Alfons Hörmann and Olaf Scholz sit down for a chat at the Hamburg Business Club

"You realize that those responsible, those who are engaged in sport, are really into this with passion and enthusiasm," Hörmann says. "That is the best basis. The IOC will only go where it is welcome."

The initiative NOlympia has a different opinion though. They are staunch anti-Olympic campaigners and have accused the IOC of non-transparency and corruption. For Alfons Hörmann this criticism is unfounded. People have to argument objectively says the DOSB president. The last corruption scandal in the IOC, was more than 20 years ago and was dealt with properly he says.

"The IOC puts 90 percent of its earnings back into national sports authorities and international competition," Hörmann says. "But the Olympic opponents, who stand on the other side, need to be prepared to accept the arguments."

NOlympia lacks support

Olympic opponents are struggling to gain support though. Surveys continue to show that the majority of citizens in Hamburg do want the Olympics in 2024. A September referendum is meant to settle the matter once and for all. By then the NOlympia campaigners want to change the attitude of Hamburg's population, but they are already becoming unpopular. Apparently, parts of the city don't want a debate on the merits of the Games.

Hamburg Business Club

The Hamburg Business Club: complete with paint bomb graffiti

Mayor Scholz is prepared to engage in dialogue with the Olympic opponents though. When asked whether he would personally meet NOlympia campaigners, he evades the question though. Instead, he says he is looking towards the referendum, which he hopes will add more support to Hamburg's application.

To the audience in the Hamburg Business Club he says that he expects a "very, very good result" come referendum time and the applause from the audience is generous. It seems no one here needs to be convinced.

"Hamburg is a very optimistic city," Scholz says. "Things are happening here. And that's why the optimism in this city would work well for an Olympic and Paralympic Games."

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