By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's port city of Hamburg, bidding to become the nation's choice for a 2024 Olympic Games candidacy, is hoping its concept of "pedestrian and bicycle" Games will help win the nod, the city's sports chief Michael Neumann said.
The Hamburg Senator in charge of domestic affairs and sports who is one of the leaders of the northern German city's bid, told Reuters in an interview on Friday there would be two consecutive bids should the first for 2024 fail.
"I think bidding for the Olympics is not a sprint but a marathon," Neumann said. "I think it is smart to start bidding for 2024 and if not successful to bid again for 2028."
"We are ready to commit ourselves to two bidding processes. We want to show that we take it very seriously," he said.
Hamburg is up against Berlin, who hosted the Olympics in 1936, for Germany's candidacy, though the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has yet to decide when a German city will bid for the Olympics.
It is likely the DOSB will announce the winning bid in December where it would also inform about which of the two Games (2024 or 2028) Germany would bid for.
Hamburg's concept is one that sees the Games held in the Kleiner Grasbrook area, technically an island but only a 10-minute walk from the city center, that would become the Olympic park.
The plan is to have every venue accessible on foot or by bicycle.
"The basic philosophy behind our concept is urban development in the past 20 years and a return to the water," Neumann said. "It used to be going away from the sea now it is a return to reclaim the waterfront."
"For our concept it is also the jump over the river Elbe, to connect the south and the north into a more integral city. We are offering Olympic and Paralympic Games in the heart of the city."
"In the Olympic park next to the Hafen (port) City and all venues within a 10 kilometer radius. It would be the pedestrian and bicycle Olympics because there is no need to take the car."
Germany has not hosted summer Olympics since the 1972 Munich Games and Hamburg's compact concept fits well with the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) plans to make the Games far more sustainable than they currently are.
More recent Olympics including in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 have seen venues, built at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, remain empty and unused after the Games, damaging the image of the Olympics.
"There is always criticism of the IOC and the bidding process. But instead of criticizing, one has to offer some constructive contribution to the Olympics and that is the idea behind Hamburg’s bid," Neumann said.
"To offer a compact Olympic concept within the organic urban development of the city. Not like a UFO of venues and stadiums that lands suddenly in a city and then takes off at the end of the Games."
One such example is the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi which hosted the winter Olympics earlier this year at a record cost of $51 billion with many of the sparkling new venues, built for the 16-day competition, having a doubtful future as cutting-edge sporting facilities.
What the IOC is also eager to see is local public support instead of opposition to the Olympics as has been the case with recent bidding processes.
For the 2022 winter Olympics, only three candidates have remained after some dropped out over financial concerns and one of them, Oslo, is facing strong local opposition.
Hamburg seems to enjoy local support at a higher percentage to rival Berlin, according to some recent polls.
"Polls are not always 100 percent reliable but there is indeed a sense of desire and enthusiasm among locals," Neumann said.
"Strangely our plans have received only very little criticism. Yesterday we had a (Hamburg) parliament discussion where we talked about the IOC and the Olympics but there was a cross-party fascination with the concept."
Whatever the case may be, should Hamburg get the nod from the DOSB to bid for the Games in 2024, there would be a local referendum to decide if the citizens of Hamburg do indeed want the Games before submitting their bid with the IOC in 2015.
Those interested in bidding include Paris, Istanbul, Doha, possibly a South African city and a city from the United States among others.
"If we are selected by the DOSB there will first be a vote for the population of Hamburg to decide whether they want the Games," said Neumann. That would take place in March or April next year.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)