Will the Olympics ever return to Germany? | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 17.10.2014
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Will the Olympics ever return to Germany?

After a number of failed campaigns to host the world's biggest sports event, the Olympics seem destined to never return to Germany. But, the country's Olympic association hasn't given up hope yet.

The recent history of Olympic bids in Germany has been an unsuccessful one. Berlin's application to bring the games to the capital in 2000 failed, as did Leipzig's a few years later for the 2012 games. Munich also missed out on being awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics, which eventually went to Pyeongchang in South Korea.

Fours year later their application failed even more miserably, after four citizen vote-offs decided against another Olympic application. Germany, as a sporting nation, which on the one hand regularly wins medals and world champion titles, looked to be unable to successfully convince the world of its credentials to host the Olympics.

Still, Germany's Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) is now focusing on the next Olympic bid for the 2024 or 2028 games. The event could be held in either Berlin or Hamburg, as part of a busy sporting summer to include the UEFA European Championships.

The organization says that it has now learned from the mistakes of the recent past and that the most important first step is getting the local population on side.

This week on Thursday the DOSB met up with representatives of German civil society in Frankfurt to start talking about the new Olympic applications. Bavarian citizens voted against the Olympics coming to Munich back in November 2013, mainly due to the lack of transparency on issues such as financial risks, environmental damage and sustainability.

Citizen involvement key

"The question is, how do we turn the positive view of the Olympic Games in Germany, into a successful Olympic bid?" DOSB President Alfons Hörmann asked at the event in Frankfurt.

"We want to involve the community from the beginning and not just present them with a concept that we then need to convince them of, retrospectively," he added. "It's a different way of thinking."

DOSB President Alfons Hörmann speaks at a press conference

DOSB boss Alfons Hörmann has still got a lot of campaigning work to do

What sounds like a new public relations approach from Hörmann is actually more complicated in real life. After all, the "positive view of the Olympic Games in Germany" is not really clearly visible at the moment.

The survey company Forsa found out recently that only 52 percent of Germans would support a Berlin Olympic bid, and 46 percent would be opposed. That doesn't look like a groundswell of support.

A new approach from Germany?

But the meeting in Frankfurt - involving 70 representatives from politics, sport and community organisations - seems like a step in the right direction.

"An event like this shows that something has truly been learnt and that experts from different areas are being included," said Ulrike Spitz, from Transparency International's sports task force.

Hartmut Stahl from Germany's Öko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) said that Germany could even start a trend to "move the Olympic machine in a more environmentally-friendly direction."

Germany as a catalyst for a more sustainable Olympic organization? Now, that would be a good Olympic bid motto.

Planned Olympic site at Hamburg

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Part of the work that needs to be done is to convince Germans that there will be no rapid increase in costs. Olympic extravagance like was seen in Sochi won't go down well with the German public.

"The approximate cost of the Olympic Games in Berlin and Hamburg would be around 2 billion euros," Hörmann said on Thursday. That would be a pittance when compared to Sochi's 40 billion euro ($51.25 billion) price tag.

Prestige projects

Germany has hosted the Olympics a few times before, of course. In 1936 the Nazis used the games as a stage to promote their view of the world. Then, 36 years later, Munich showcased a new, more positive picture of Germany in a games that was then remembered for an attack on Israeli athletes where 17 people died.

These days Germans are reluctant to believe that big sporting projects can be done on a cheap budget. In Stuttgart, the city's new underground train station may end up costing up to 8.7 billion euros ($11.1 billion), over three times more than first thought.

In the capital Berlin, the city's new airport was budgeted at around 755 million euros at the start but now is expected to cost 5.4 billion euros, and it's still not completed. German taxpayers have had enough of cost blow-outs and broken promises.

Against this background, Olympic bid organizers will have a tough time garnering support.

Oslo's biathlon race site

Excited fans, lots of tradition and still no Olympics: the Oslo example should serve as a lesson

But the behaviour of the International Olympic Committee also isn't helping. Oslo recently withdrew from bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics after it was alleged that the IOC had placed demands on Norway that the government wasn't happy with.

The organization hadn't just demanded special olympic lanes for the duration of the games, but also a cocktail reception with the King of Norway was apparently requested. Even if the IOC refuted some of the demands ever having been made, it's not a good look, especially after the recent appointment of reformer Thomas Bach to the top of the organization.

Either way, in Germany the Olympic bid projects are still going. And this time the application can't fail, that seems clear. The next attempt needs to be done right. Maybe for that reason the DOSB has changed it's timetable of setting up the bid.

Previously, they wanted to decide on December 6 which city, out of Berlin and Hamburg, would make the official German bid. Now, they want to wait for a special meeting of the IOC and are likely to decide some time next year.

"In the future the games need to be tailored to the city, not the other way round," concluded Alfons Hörmann in Frankfurt. But the question is: Is that just paying lip service to the problem, or does it signal a new direction in the Olympic movement? Germany must be hoping for the later.

After all, only a major change in approach will guarantee local support for the Olympics coming to Germany in the future.