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Opinion: Not quite Olympic fever

Hamburg and Berlin both want to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, but the level of support in both cities isn't as high as it could be. That's mainly down to a lack of transparency, says DW sports editor Joscha Weber.

The biggest sports event in the world, worldwide media attention and millions of tourists in your streets: that's enough to get any city excited, right? Or maybe not. The results of the poll of 1500 citizens in Berlin and Hamburg seem a bit inconclusive.

Only 55 percent of the Berlin citizens asked want to see their city campaign for the 2024 Summer Olympics, in Hamburg it was 64 percent. At the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) the president Alfons Hörmann is happy about the "huge support for the Olympics." What hyperbole.

DW sports editor Joscha Weber

DW sports editor Joscha Weber

Yes, both cities experienced slight increases in approval levels, in comparison to the previous poll half a year earlier. Yes, both cities have presented Olympic bid concepts that integrate their sports venues into their respective cities. But "huge support" is nowhere to be seen here.

Neither in Berlin, nor Hamburg, has Olympic euphoria erupted in the way that the DOSB was hoping. Perhaps citizens of both cities have figured out the Olympic way of doing business.

The citizens have worked it out

The Berlin taxpayers have already spent some 300,000 euros ($321,216) on the Olympic candidacy campaign, to try to create a bit of atmosphere. But at the end of the day the DOSB management decides which city can apply for the Olympics and their decision criteria isn't made public. The poll statistics will have a very significant role, apparently, but so will other factors, say the DOSB. Which factors and the extent of the weight they are given, remains a mystery. And that's a shame.

After all, only a transparent Olympic bid really has a chance of succeeding with the German public, who have already refused Olympic campaigns in the past. Most recently, Munich's attempt to host the 2022 Winter Games was bulldozed by four public polls.

Will Olympic over-spending ever end?

The concern of many citizens, that the Olympics would have a cost blowout, was too strong. There were the pictures from Athens, where weed-covered stadiums from the 2004 Olympics stood rotting in the sun and millions of taxpayer euros went missing. It was the bad side of the Olympics: higher, faster and more expensive.

The Athens 2004 Olympic softball stadium

Overgrown: the Athens 2004 Olympic softball stadium

And once again the mistakes of the past look like they will repeat themselves. Just like in Munich, Berlin and Hamburg seem reluctant to talk about financing. In Hamburg, they actually wanted to do a risk analysis on costs, but the citizens are still waiting for it. In Berlin, Heiner Brandi, the CEO of the Berlin sports authorities said: "This won't cost Berlin a cent." Who can believe that sort of madness? Of course a world event like the Olympics costs lots of money. Whoever tries to cover this up, is risking Germany's fourth failed Olympic bid after Berlin 2000, Leipzig 2012 and Munich 2018.

The country's sport and political decisionmakers would be wise to stay honest in the coming Olympic bid process. They need to show real transparency on costs and decision criteria, then it might just work out for a German Olympics this time round.

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