Garmisch to hold 2018 referendum
The mountain community of Garmisch-Partenkirchen will hold a referendum in May to decide whether they want to be part of the 2018 Munich winter Olympics bid, in a move that could damage the German city's chances.
Bid opponents have condemned the Munich candidacy as environmentally unsound and succeeded in gathering some 2,500 signatures to force a referendum, Ludwig Hartmann, the founder of the NOlympia group told Reuters.
Garmisch council decided late on Wednesday to hold it on May 8, less than two months before the IOC elects the winning bid in their session in Durban, South Africa on July 6, Hartmann said.
"Last night the community decided to hold the referendum on the Munich bid on May 8," said Hartmann, who is also a member of the Bavarian state assembly with the Greens.
"The bid officials had said in their bid book to the IOC that a referendum would not be needed but now it is needed."
Munich, with the Alps as a backdrop, is considered a frontrunner in the race alongside South Korea's Pyeongchang with France's Annecy seen as the outsider.
Munich, which hopes to become the first city to stage summer and winter Olympics, proposes holding the Games in the mountains around Garmisch, which hosted the 1936 winter Games, as well as the Bavarian city itself.
Should bid opponents in the Alpine region an hour south of Munich win the majority of votes then the community must examine if there are ways of getting out of contracts already signed.
"It will be a tight race and looks to be 50-50 or we may even have a slight lead," said Hartmann.
"But even if just 52 or 53 percent vote against the Games then I don't think the IOC would even consider awarding them to a part of the world where the majority of local people do not want them."
German Olympic Sports Union (DOSB) chief Thomas Bach was confident the vote would favour the Games bid.
"I expect in the referendum an overwhelming majority in favour of the Olympics and Paralympics," said Bach, who is also an IOC Vice President.
"I am confident that the people of Garmisch will vote in favour of the Olympics and their region's development. Polls have shown that no other major project in Germany enjoys the support that Munich 2018 enjoys."
The 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.
"Whatever happens with the referendum, the mere fact that it is being held just before the IOC vote is certainly a problem for the bid," said Hartmann. "We will also inform the IOC of the latest developments in the coming days."