By Karolos Grohmann
(Reuters) - The northern port city of Hamburg was picked on Monday as the country's preferred choice for a 2024 summer Olympics bid ahead of Berlin, with the German Olympic Sports Confederation's (DOSB) members to ratify the proposal later this week.
The DOSB board opted for Olympic newcomers Hamburg instead of Berlin, who hosted the Games in 1936, after an all-day meeting on Monday and following polls last week that showed Hamburg citizens were more in favor of the Games (64 percent) than the capital's residents (55 percent).
But it was also Germany's 33 top sports federations that gave a majority to Hamburg, with 18 in favor of the port city and 11 for the capital. Four federations voted for both cities.
DOSB chairman Alfons Hoermann told reporters that the experts, who briefed the board after the cities' presentations, helped swing the board's votes in favor of Hamburg.
"It was not an easy choice. Without naming all the reasons... the poll was an important role, the vote of the sports federations, and thirdly today's experts' round of discussion," he said.
The DOSB members are expected to ratify the decision on March 21.
Boston and Rome have already officially launched their candidacy with several more cities, including Paris, Doha, Istanbul and Baku, seen as possible contenders until the Sept. 15 deadline.
Hamburg, which hopes to use centrally-located land near the port to build some of the venues in a compact inner-city concept, will now need to stage a local referendum by September.
"Hamburg offers a fascinating and compact concept," Hoermann said. "A northern German and northern European metropolitan region which would succeed in making the jump over the river Elbe for long-term urban development."
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.
Officials are eager to shore up support before handing in their candidacy by Sept. 15 in order to avoid strong opposition during the two-year campaign period until a decision by the International Olympic Committee in 2017.
"We are confident going into the continuing discussion," Hoermann said when asked if he was confident the referendum would be in favor of the Games. "We think the games are worth it and we will also talk to critics in a structured way."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Additional reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Pritha Sarkar)