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Germany

One Last Effort to Revive Leipzig Olympic Bid

Germany hopes to save its scandal-plagued effort to host the Olympic Games in 2012 by appointing new members to the Olympic committee positions left vacant by disgraced departing members.

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Otto Schily was in Frankfurt on Wednesday to launch a new effort to save Leipzig's Olympic bid.

Interior Minister Otto Schily announced on Wednesday that highly respected political and business leaders would take charge of Leipzig's beleaguered effort to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. Key figures had resigned in disgrace or were forced out after a series of scandals came to light in October.

Peter Zühlsdorff, a former top manager at Wella haircare group, will take over the chairmanship of the committee overseeing Leipzig’s bid. Schily described Zühlsdorff as a “patriot of practice,” and suggested that -- unlike his predecessor -- he would neither be tempted to use the position for personal gain nor would questions about his past come back to haunt him -- or the Olympic bid.

The same criteria seems to have gone into the selection of the former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who will take over the position as chairman of the supervisory board. Former Baden-Württemberg Premier Lothar
Späth and businessman Arend Oetker will occupy other positions on the supervisory board.

In addition, a report was released that clears Leipzig Mayor Wolfgang Tiefensee and Saxon Premier Georg Milbrant of any wrongdoing related to financial irregularities in the Olympic bid.

Having cleaned house, Interior Minister Schily said he hoped the committee can now get down to business. “We have drawn a line under everything that has happened,” he said.

Heads roll

'Everything' began in October.

Then, Dirk Thärichen, who had headed committee overseeing the bid and was considered close to Leipzig Mayor Tiefensee, resigned after it was revealed that he had had ties to the East German secret police, the Stasi.

Burkhard Jung, a supervisory board member, was forced out after allegations surfaced that he had taken illegal commission payments worth more than €150,000 ($171,400).

Tiefensee's state secretary, Wolfram Köhler, was forced to retire after he came 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.

Rostock too, which would host the Olympic sailing competition if the bid is successful, has not been free of scandals either. Harald Lochotzke, the chairman of the city's Olympic marketing committee, also resigned over allegations of involvement with the Stasi and complicity in a number of financial irregularities.

Tough work ahead

Zühlsdorff and company will have their work cut out for them in order to revive a bid that was considered a long shot from the start. Though Leipzig seems to have come out of nowhere to secure the position as Germany’s official candidate to host the 2012 Olympics, it still needs to fend off tough competition from other cities, including Paris and New York.

Plus, after being forced to face its own demons over the bribery scandal in conjunction with Salt Lake City winning the 2002 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) may be reluctant to choose Leipzig.

German Olympic Committee head Walther Tröger though, said Leipzig's chances hadn't been diminished. "Heads rolling over Olympic bids is nothing extraordinary," he said.


The newly configured committee will meet again on December 10 to approve the city’s final proposal, which is due to the IOC on January 15.

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