Games opponents bid to force Munich 2018 referendum

22 February 2011 - 19:39
By Karolos Grohmann, Reuters

Opponents to Munich’s bid to host the 2018 winter Olympics launched a signature drive on Tuesday that they hope will force a referendum on whether the Games should be held there.

Only days before an International Olympic Committee arrives in Munich to check on the city’s plans before the final vote on July 6, the founder of the NOlympia group said he would have enough signatures to force a vote in just three weeks.

“We need about 2000 signatures or about 10% of the eligible voters (in Garmisch) for the local council to stage a referendum,” Ludwig Hartmann, who is also a member of the Bavarian state assembly with the Greens, told Reuters.

The Munich bid proposes hosting the Games in the mountains around Garmisch-Partenkirchen as well as the Bavarian city itself.

The IOC will visit Munich from March 1-4.

“We already have 3000 registered opponents of the bid so it should not be a problem,” Hartmann said. “I expect to hand them in in March and the local council must then stage a referendum within three months.”

Munich is bidding alongside South Korea’s Pyeongchang and France’s Annecy. The IOC will elect the winner in Durban, South Africa on July 6.

The Munich bid has hit local snags in recent months with land owners refusing to free their properties for Olympic use and environmental groups and the Green Party opposing the bid.

NOlympia supporters argue the Games and their size would put too much of an environmental and financial strain on the narrow valley about an hour south of Munich.

Officials for the Munich bid said they were confident such a referendum would fail.

“We are convinced that the overwhelming majority of the population is behind the bid and opinion polls corroborate this,” it said in a statement.

“Our latest regional polls indicated that almost two thirds of people in Garmisch-Partenkirchen are in favour of hosting the 2018 Winter Games.”