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Munich referendum puts 2022 Olympic bid in hands of citizens

A referendum is under way in Munich and other parts of Bavaria to decide if the city should launch an official bid for the 2022 winter Olympics. In 2011, Munich lost out to Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Games.

Voters in Munich, the Alpine resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and the nearby Bavarian districts of Traunstein and Berchtesgadener Land are being asked in four separate referendums on Sunday:

"Are you in favor of the [Bavarian] capital city, Munich, along with Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the districts of Traunstein and Berchtesgadener Land, bidding for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic winter Games?"

If a majority of voters cast their ballots in favor of bidding for the games, and if this majority is at least 10 percent of all eligible voters (20 percent in Garmisch-Partenkirchen) in all four referendums, Munich will officially launch a bid for the Games.

Bouncing back from 2018 loss

Roughly 1.3 million Bavarians are eligible to take part in the four referendums Sunday, and the first returns are expected later on Sunday. Official results are scheduled to be announced on Tuesday. The deadline to submit bids to the International Olympic Committee is November 14, and the selection of a host city is due in 2015.

Oslo, Lviv (Ukraine), and Beijing are among other potential candidate cities.

Munich lost by a wide margin in 2011 in its bid to host the 2018 winter Games to the South Korean city of Pyeongchang. Despite wide support of government officials and businesses in the region, Munich's 2018 bid was met with resistance by certain groups who cited cost and the Games' environmental impact concerns.

Tough sell in Garmisch

Citizens' organizations such as NOlympia were especially active in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the ski resort town about 90 km (55 miles) south of Munich, in voicing their opposition to the 2018 bid as many of the competitions would actually take place there.

In the 2022 bid, some events (most notably the Alpine ski events) would still be held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen but not as many as were foreseen in the 2018 bid. The 2022 plans call for 40 percent less land to be used for the athlete and media villages. NOlympia is opposed to the 2022 bid as well.

Instead, the new plan calls for a third Olympic village and media center (the remaining one in Munich) to be built in the Chiemgau-Königsee region of Berchtesgadener Land. The districts of Traunstein and Berchtesgadener Land are in the southeastern corner of Bavaria and are bordered by Austria. The districts would host events such as the biathlon and bobsled.

mz/dr (dpa, SID)