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Germany

Olympic Committee Issues Leipzig Ultimatum

The organizers behind the scandal-ridden joint bid by Leipzig/Rostock to host the 2012 Olympic Games have been given a final warning by Germany’s Olympic Committee: Clean up your act or we’ll pull the plug.

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Leipzig's Olympic dream is becoming a nightmare

The organizers of Germany’s joint bid for the Olympic Summer Games in 2012 have been told to shape up or ship out by the country’s Olympic body.

The scandals involving organizers' ties to the East German Secret Police that have rocked the Leipzig/Rostock bid are severely damaging the German attempt to secure the prestigious sporting spectacle, according to the German Olympic Committee (NOK). Many within the governing body are calling for a full investigation before Germany’s slender chances of playing host crumble in embarrassment and disgrace.

"We expect an explanation without any holes for the embarrassing and inexcusable events," said Manfred von Richthofen, president of the German Sports Federation.

Time running out after latest resignation

The ultimatum comes just days after the joint bid suffered another major blow. Burkhard Jung, the city official who represented Leipzig during the city’s successful bid to become the German candidate in April before becoming a supervisory board member of the company overseeing Leipzig’s bid, stepped down from his position on Friday after allegations of financial irregularities surfaced.

Reports say that state prosecutors are investigating Jung’s role in illegal commission payments worth €150,000 ($171,400) made to a marketing company while Leipzig was bidding to represent Germany.

Das neue Olympia Logo zur Bewerbung der Stadt Leipzig 2012

Leipzig's bid could go up in flames.

The NOK held a general meeting in Leipzig on Saturday, the day after Jung resigned, and issued a statement that offered support for the bid but implied Leipzig officials were operating on borrowed time to get the bid back on track. An Olympic committee spokesman told Deutsche Welle that should Leipzig fail, there would be no other German candidate.

"The members were sorry to hear of a number of turbulent incidents that have damaged the internal structure of the Leipzig bid," the NOK statement said. "They expect an immediate correction of that situation in order to put all available strength behind the bid," the statement added.

Leipzig in intensive care

"German sport has renewed its commitment to bring the Games to Germany," said NOK president Klaus Steinbach. "But we are not naive," he added. "We know that the patient has not healed and still needs intensive care."

In fact, the Leipzig/Rostock bid appears to be on life support, fighting for its existence while the NOK watches solemnly, ready to flick off the switch if its condition deteriorates further.

In terms of the competition for the 2012 Games, Leipzig/Rostock was always the weakest child, rejoicing hopefully in the company of stronger players, happy to be involved.

The stronger candidates -- London, Madrid, New York and Paris in particular -- paid Leipzig/Rostock little mind, more concerned with each other than the chances of the upstart. It should have been the ideal cover for a surprising bid from under the noses of the favorites. But body blows from within have knocked the stuffing out of the Olympic whelp.

Stasi rumors and financial slurs

Dirk Thärichen Olympia Bewerbungskomitee

Dirk Thärichen.

First were the allegations surrounding Dirk Thärichen (picture), the head of Leipzig's Olympic bid committee, concerning his past involvement with the Stasi, the former East German secret police. Harald Lochotzke, the chairman of Rostock's publicly-run Olympic marketing committee, resigned soon after, dogged by similar Stasi speculation and allegations of complicity in a number of financial irregularities.

Next to stand down was Wolfram Köhler. The State Secretary for Saxony resigned after he had come under fire for allegedly paying his wife high commissions for helping to find financial sponsors while he was the mayor of the town of Riesa. Köhler is considered to be the source of the idea to bring the Games to Leipzig and Rostock.

Leipzig mayor Wolfgang Tiefensee has stressed that the recent controversy should not detract from the work being done to secure the Games. "As before we're working with the greatest intensity and the greatest professionalism on this bid," he added.

Wolfgang Tiefensee

Mayor under pressure: Wolfgang Tiefensee.

However, the pressure is on for Tiefensee and his fellow Leipzig supporters to root out the causes of any further possible scandal before it breaks into the public domain. Tiefensee will also be hoping that nothing happens between now and November 19, the next meeting of the Leipzig 2012 supervisory board.

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