Hamburg withdrawal no major concern at IOC

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 5:55 AM

By Karolos Grohmann

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The surprise rejection of Hamburg's 2024 Olympics bid made it to the International Olympic Committee agenda at their Executive Board meeting this week but while experts warn the Games may have been 'tarnished', the IOC is convinced external reasons forced the city's withdrawal.

Hamburg became the second city to pull out of the 2024 race, after Boston, when citizens of the German city voted against a bid 10 days ago.

Four cities had also pulled out of the 2022 winter Games bidding process but IOC President Thomas Bach said it was not the Games' size or cost that scared people in Hamburg but a string of other reasons, including the Paris attacks, ongoing world sports scandals and the refugee crisis in Europe among others.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams confirmed on Tuesday Executive Board members had discussed the Hamburg issue, with Bach outlining the reasons for the rejection of the world's biggest multi-sports event, but there did not seem to be a lengthy analysis of the referendum result.

Marketing experts, however, are seeing a pattern of cities pulling out of the Games, especially from Europe, affected also by the very nature of the Games themselves.

"Obviously there is the economic interpretation that the Games cost too much money and there is no tangible return on investment," Simon Chadwick, professor at the Centre for Sports Business, Salford University, told Reuters.

"In the post-austerity era Europeans are a lot more sensitive in getting value for money.

"Clearly people seem to be unconvinced. Hospitals are being closed, school places reduced and we see that across Europe. Staging a sports event is not that important."

Chadwick said the Games had gradually become a 'tarnished brand'.

"It is true that the Olympic Games is a tarnished brand. There is general collective public cynicism of trustworthiness of sports bodies," he said.

"The Olympic movement has tried to change but the Olympics will continue to be tarnished with the same brush as (world soccer's governing body) FIFA."

FIFA has seen dozens of officials, including vice presidents, arrested on suspicion of corruption, money-laundering and racketeering with the federation struggling under the weight of its biggest crisis.

The IOC, alarmed among other reasons by the four withdrawals for 2022, including winter sports heavyweights Oslo and Stockholm, has tried to reduce the size and cost of the Games by passing a string of reforms last year.

So far they have yet to deliver tangible results with Boston pulling out this year only months after the reforms were voted in and Hamburg following suit on Nov. 29, leaving Budapest, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome in the running.

But the financial fallout will not be as serious as some might expect, Chadwick said, with Asian nations -- South Korea, Japan and China -- hosting the next three editions after 2016 and offsetting any slumping interest from western cities.

"I don't think the financial imperative is necessarily quite so serious as we might think it is," Chadwick said.

"Some of the geo-political shifts at this level of sports are financially underwritten by increasingly powerful Asian nations."

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)