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Germany

Leipzig's Olympic Dream Ends in Disappointment

Leipzig's hopes of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games have been dashed. The IOC overlooked the mid-sized eastern German city, instead short-listing five world-class cities to continue their Olympic bids.

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Hopeful crowds gathered in Leipzig were disappointed by the news.

Perhaps size really does matter. Leipzig, the smallest of the nine cities vying for the 2012 Games, had the underdog advantage, but that wasn't enough to carry it through to the next round in the competition. The International Olympic Committee instead placed New York, Moscow, Madrid, London, and Paris on its short-list.

In addition to Leipzig, Havana, Istanbul, and Rio de Janeiro were also dropped from the IOC's consideration following a unanimous decision announced by the committee's president Jacques Rogge (photo) in Lausanne.

Jaques Rogge, Präsident IOC

International Olympic Comittee, IOC, president Jacques Rogge.

"The exercise was to retain those cities who we believe would stage the best Games," Rogge said. "I don't like the word 'rejection' but those cities we have not retained…this in no way reflects that we do not trust these countries."

Dejection, tears

Following the announcement, the crowd of several thousand standing in Leipzig's central market square was subdued, with more than a few teary eyes. Several people half-heartedly let go of the light-blue helium balloons they'd been holding onto in anticipation of more joyous news.

Leipzig's mayor, Wolfgang Tiefensee, congratulated the five cities that advanced to the next round of their candidacy, though he admitted that Leipzig's defeat "hurt very, very much." He refrained from commenting on the success of Leipzig's competitors, saying only that his city was determined to be a "good loser." Instead, Tiefensee sought to console his disappointed citizens. "We stand together, in good times, and also, when times aren't so good," he said.

Leipzig's Olympic planning committee had no illusions about the city's size and infrastructure, especially compared with more cosmopolitan cities on the list such as London and New York. But rather than taking a defensive posture, Leipzig -- a city of 500,000 -- marketed its size as a distinct advantage, promising to transform itself into "one big Olympic village."

"The IOC executive made a technical decision," said IOC vice president, Thomas Bach. "Leipzig's application had two weaknesses -- the missing infrastructure, and the accommodation concept. Leipzig got excellent marks in other categories." Bach added that the Olympics are just slightly too big of an event for the city at present.

Paris, which last hosted the Olympics in 1924, is viewed as the front-runner for 2012. The final decision will be announced in July of 2005 in Singapore.

A second chance?

Leipzig's Olympic planners said they plan to take a day to recover from the disappointment, and then set about learning from the outcome, and finding out where their application went wrong. But already there's talk of the city trying for the Olympics a second time in the future.

"We should really think carefully now about how we go on from here," said Jens Weissflog, a former Olympic ski-jump champion. "From the beginning, it was clear that if we didn't make it the first time around, then we should give ourselves a second chance."

But it's the German National Committee that will decide in November 2005 at the earliest, whether Germany will apply to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Germany has twice before hosted the Games -- in Berlin, 1936, and in Munich, 1972. In 1993, Berlin competed to host the 2000 Games, but they went instead to Sydney.

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