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Environment

Selecting Olympic host candidates with the environment in mind

Which city will the German Olympic Sports Confederation choose as candidate for the 2024 Games? If issues like sustainability and climate protection play a role, Hamburg takes the lead. But Berlin is catching up.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOBS) will decide Monday (16.03.2015) on Germany's candidacy to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Which will it be: Hamburg or Berlin?

The time for big, elaborate Olympic Games are over, said IOC President Thomas Bach in the committee's "Agenda 2020" paper. Not only has it been increasingly difficult to find cities to host this mega event, but also finding use for the sports venues after the Olympics are over remains a challenge.

Green criteria

Among the 10 criteria that are crucial in winning the bid - in addition to factors such as venues and financial planning - are sustainability factors. State secretary for Germany's Environment Ministry, Jochen Flasbarth, believes Germany can keep up with its competitors. "If we really make a run at this, sustainability won't be something that we just add on. Sustainability will have to be the core of our bid," he told Hamburg-based newspaper "Hamburger Abendblatt."

The games could serve as a much-needed impulse for necessary reconstruction in the city. Hamburg, a port city in Germany's north, has looked to London for guidance in its bid: London remodeled its neighborhoods in the east for the 2012 Summer Olympics - focusing on sustainability, rather than big, costly games.

Hamburg's port (photo: dpa - Bildfunk)

Hamburg was awarded the title "European green city" in 2011

Hamburg boasts the label "European Green capital," which the European Commission awarded it in 2011. It was praised for its efforts to improve climate protection, mobility, air quality and water management, as well curbing carbon dioxide emissions and increasing bike usage.

Sustainable plans

Hamburg's focus is on environmentally friendly and sustainable plans: it wants to see sports venues and parks made available to families, schools and sports clubs after the games. According to Hamburg's senate, new buildings should be constructed as low-energy and cater to the needs of the city's growing population - it's estimated that Hamburg's population will add 100,000 inhabitants to reach 1.85 million citizens by 2030.

But it remains to be seen whether the IOC's big sponsors can be convinced to offer their fast food products in reusable containers. It's also doubtful that the amount of organic food from regional farmers will be enough to feed 17,500 athletes and officials, 16,000 media workers as well as tens of thousands of tourists.

But critics point out that the senate failed to include costs for its plans. According to estimates by "(N)Olympia," a group that opposes hosting the games, Hamburg would have to cough up 3 to 6 billion euros ($2.9 to $5.7 billion) to fund the games.

Berlin's plans still up in the air

Berlin's bid for the Olympics (photo: Copyright Oliver Rath)

Berlin wants to build accommodation on the empty Tegel airport field

Meanwhile in Berlin, 15 of 30 venues already exist, and Germany's capital has no shortages for accommodation. Once Berlin's central airport BER begins operating, Berlin plans to shut down Tegel airport. This will in turn free space for some 5,000 apartments, venues, a clinic and religious meeting place to cater to Berlin's growing population.

But just like in Hamburg, the question that lingers with Berlin is: at what cost? Tilmann Heuser, director of environmental group Bund Berlin, says people there are more inclined to take risks. As Mayor Klaus Wowereit put it: "Berlin is poor, but sexy." Whether this argument will convince the German Olympic Sports Confederation remains to be seen.

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