Wall Street Journal 4.3.2011
By MARY M. LANE
As Munich officials woo Olympic committee inspectors this week in a pitch to stage the 2018 Winter Games, they face one major snag: a broad coalition of local farmers and environmentalists is trying to kill the bid.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former ice-skating champion Katarina Witt were among those courting a visiting International Olympic Committee delegation this week as the Bavarian city vies against South Korea’s Pyeongchang and Annecy, France, to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Unlike those contenders, though, Munich faces growing resistance to its bid close to home. So far, nearly six dozen local farmers have refused to cede their land for use during the Games, arguing that the event would be too costly and environmentally destructive.
A group dubbed „Nolympia“ is seeking to force a referendum in the nearby Alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where many of the events would be staged, on whether to host the Games at all.
Local opposition to cities‘ bids to host the Olympics aren’t entirely new. Both London’s and Chicago’s recent campaigns to host the Summer Olympics drew protesters objecting to the potential crowds and cost.
But the resistance to Munich’s bid is unusual in its breadth, ranging from local farmers to Bavaria’s Green Party. It could also become one of the first to deploy a referendum to block the games. Axel Doering, an environmental activist leading the referendum campaign, says the petition has „well over half“ of the 1,700 signatures needed to force a local vote.
Whether a referendum would have a chance of succeeding in a ban is far from certain. But Munich bid organizers fear the vocal opposition could hurt the city’s chances nonetheless. On Tuesday, Ludwig Hartmann, a local Green parliamentarian, organized a meeting between „Nolympia“ protesters and the IOC, urging them to reject Munich.
„Naturally the IOC delegates weren’t particularly delighted about the ‚IOC, Go Home!‘ signs,“ Mr. Hartmann said. The reception was a far cry from the greeting the IOC inspectors received last month in Pyeongchang from a crowd of several hundred South Koreans singing ABBA’s „I Have a Dream“ in polished English against a backdrop of freshly fallen snow.
Though there is still broad support for Munich’s bid, polls suggest it may be waning. While a nationwide survey a year by the German research group Infratest dimap showed that some 80% of German backed the effort to stage the Winter Games in Munich, a January poll by the same group showed Bavarian approval currently at 60%.
Meanwhile, the German Nature Conservation—a consortium of 98 environmental groups—withdrew support for the Olympic bid in September, calling it „environmentally irresponsible.“ Green Party leader Claudia Roth resigned from the bid committee after her party voted against Munich’s bid. Critics also complain the estimated €3 billion (about $4.2 billion) needed to stage the Games would be a waste of taxpayers‘ money.
Jochen Faerber, a spokesman for Munich’s bid, argued that of the €1.7 billion that would be allocated for infrastructure, less than half would come from taxpayers. The rest would come from sponsors and participating countries, all of which would go toward improving the region’s infrastructure. Of the €1.3 billion earmarked for the Games‘ organizing budget, only €35 million would be drawn from federal taxpayer money, and would be used solely to promote the Paralympics, he said.
Mr. Faerber argued that constructing a traffic tunnel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and increasing rail access, as the Munich Olympics bid calls for, would result in infrastructure improvements that would benefit the region for decades. „These are projects the region has already demanded for years,“ he said.
Quelle: The Wall Street Journal