Winter Olympics 2018 Ambivalence Meets Bavarian Bid for Games

German athletes and officials in Vancouver are lobbying hard for Munich to be chosen to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. But back home in Bavaria, the idea is losing popularity, and small-town farmers might scuttle the whole plan.


It's day three of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and Willy Bogner is having a bite to eat at a waterfront restaurant. German luger Felix Loch has just won the country's first gold medal of the games. A day earlier, police used batons to quell violent anti-Olympics protests in downtown Vancouver. But Bogner hasn't noticed any of this since he doesn't have any time to stroll through the city.

Bavaria's capital city has its sights set on hosting the Winter Games in eight years, and Bogner, 68, is the head of Munich's 2018 bid. Two other cities, France's Annecy and South Korea's Pyeongchang, have also tossed their hats in the ring. Bogner has come to Canada to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Munich is the best choice.

Photo Gallery

3  Photos
Photo Gallery: Munich's Bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics

Bogner is staying at the official IOC hotel, where he meets with IOC members every day. Since arriving in Vancouver, he has already had 70 meetings, not all of which have been easy. For example, Bogner says, the IOC representatives from Africa know "very little about winter sports."

Bogner looks exhausted and not completely awake, but he can't give up now. While in Vancouver, he's hoping to meet with at least 100 IOC officials. This is about the Olympics; he's fighting for Germany.

He wolfs down a chicken dinner and hurries back to the hotel.

Unknown Costs

Though she's a long way from Vancouver, Christl Freier is also fighting. She's not fighting for Germany, though; she's fighting for her home. The elementary school teacher from the small town of Oberammergau in southern Bavaria is standing on a hiking path on the edge of town, where it's cold and quiet. Gazing at the snow-covered meadows and mountain slopes surrounding her, Freier says: "I don't need the Olympics here."

Oberammergau is a town of about 5,000 people famous for its wood carvings and even more so for its Passion Play. If Munich wins the 2018 bid, the biathlon and cross-country skiing contests will be held in the town. Cross-country ski runs, grandstands and a media center will be constructed in the fields below the Romanshöhe neighborhood. After the games, everything will be dismantled, and the natural environment is expected to recover from the spectacle within a few years. Or at least that's the plan.

Last November, the Oberammergau town council approved the Olympic bid by a 16-1 vote. At the time, people in favor of hosting the games argued that they would raise the profile of the town, which is heavily dependent on tourism. The only vote against the plan came from Christl Freier, a council member representing a group called the Women's List. When the decision was announced, Freier said: "We are compromising our natural environment. We are sliding into something here, and no one knows what it will end up costing us."

After the vote, Freier became the target of quite a few barbed remarks in the town. But she didn't let that bother her, and now many other town residents have also started questioning the decision. Some local farmers have become a thorn in the side of the team advocating for Munich because they won't grant permission for the Games to be held on their property. It's dawned on them that the town has signed off on something completely unpredictable.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The Olympics are a gigantic spectacle. For about three weeks, they completely transform a country and a city. They can release a massive burst of excitement, as they have in Vancouver, and trigger a national sense of joy that radiates into the rest of the world. But the Olympics also involve power, politics and profit. Though the IOC gives host cities neither guarantees nor assurances, it still makes plenty of demands that have to be fulfilled. Indeed, negotiation isn't one of the IOC's strong points.

Bogner, the CEO of Munich 2018, hasn't had a chance to meet Christl Freier, but he will be meeting with IOC officials from South America at his hotel this afternoon. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and Christian Ude, Munich's mayor, have also traveled to Canada to add their weight to Bogner's campaign for the 2018 games. There are also employees of the organization in charge of the bid, who are trying to get a behind-the-scenes look at the games. And, lastly, there are lobbyists trying to divine the IOC's mood.

In their minds, they are all working toward the same goal. "We're talking about the next generations of Germans interested in winter sports," Bogner says. From his vantage point here in Vancouver, Oberammergau is just a very small, distant place.

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mjcorrigan71 02/26/2010
1. The Olympics Con Game
I live in Chicago. Several million of much-needed private philanthropy dollars were diverted over several years to prepare for an ill-fated Summer Olympics bid. Tens of thousands of man-hours were unnecessarily expended. In the fall of 2009, were we disappointed to find that Chicago had been eliminated for contention on the first ballot. The dynamics of the vote later became apparent. A cabal of inbred, provincial European elitists on the I.O.C. had colluded to keep Chicago out. Subsequently, it was revealed that France's President Sarkozy and Brazil's President "Lula" had linked a pending aircraft deal by France's Dassault Aviation with I.O.C. support for Brazil in the same vote. And people complain about Chicago politics! The Bavarians are correct to be skeptical. European elitists have long looked with disdain upon America, especially the American heartland. I have traveled extensively in Western Europe and I happen to have high respect for President Sarkozy; but I cannot condone such oblique tactics, which reek of dishonesty. I am aware that Paris was also "cheated" by unnatural and unnecessary politiking in the prior Summer Olympics vote, and the clues present in southern Germany point to the scenario that Annecy will probably not be chosen either. I am steadfastly against any American entity, public, corporate, or private, giving any kind of support, monetary or otherwise, to any International Olympic Committee project. These resources should rather be applied to training and development of American talent instead of providing the I.O.C. and its subsidiaries with private international expense accounts. The Bavarians are correct that the claims of substantive economic benefit to a locality are specious. However, they may be doomed to win their bid by an I.O.C. vote that is "quatsch." In the American heartland, a snob or an elitist is generally seen as an insecure person with an inferiority complex who has weaknesses to hide. I see the Europeans and their fellow travelers in their " I.O.C. Hotel" in Vancouver as not just spoiled, but creepy. Maybe this is my unfair stereotype of them. Nevertheless, for a host of substantive reasons, I hope no American city ever again bids to host any Olympics. It is a waste of time and money. It is a frivolous diversion of precious resources and talent. There will be little commensurate enduring economic or social benefit to a locale. In metropolitan Chicago, still largely populated by progeny of European immigrants, few would ever again care whether or not European elitists look upon us fondly. If Lula wants them, Lula can have them.
grandloup71 03/01/2010
2.
I know there are logistical aspects to choosing a location and am aware that Oberammergau and Garmisch are in the same vicinity, but surely a less expensive solution would be to use facilities that already exist? Both Oberstdorf and Ruhpolding are renowned for their history of hosting world cup and championship events - would it not make more sense for these existing facilities to be developed and retained for futire use as opposed to building a facility in Oberammergau only to take it down afterwards? It sounds like an Olympic-sized load of nonsense to me.
Insulaner 03/03/2010
3. Olympic business
Zitat von mjcorrigan71I live in Chicago. Several million of much-needed private philanthropy dollars were diverted over several years to prepare for an ill-fated Summer Olympics bid. Tens of thousands of man-hours were unnecessarily expended. In the fall of 2009, were we disappointed to find that Chicago had been eliminated for contention on the first ballot. The dynamics of the vote later became apparent. A cabal of inbred, provincial European elitists on the I.O.C. had colluded to keep Chicago out. Subsequently, it was revealed that France's President Sarkozy and Brazil's President "Lula" had linked a pending aircraft deal by France's Dassault Aviation with I.O.C. support for Brazil in the same vote. And people complain about Chicago politics! The Bavarians are correct to be skeptical. European elitists have long looked with disdain upon America, especially the American heartland. I have traveled extensively in Western Europe and I happen to have high respect for President Sarkozy; but I cannot condone such oblique tactics, which reek of dishonesty. I am aware that Paris was also "cheated" by unnatural and unnecessary politiking in the prior Summer Olympics vote, and the clues present in southern Germany point to the scenario that Annecy will probably not be chosen either. I am steadfastly against any American entity, public, corporate, or private, giving any kind of support, monetary or otherwise, to any International Olympic Committee project. These resources should rather be applied to training and development of American talent instead of providing the I.O.C. and its subsidiaries with private international expense accounts. The Bavarians are correct that the claims of substantive economic benefit to a locality are specious. However, they may be doomed to win their bid by an I.O.C. vote that is "quatsch." In the American heartland, a snob or an elitist is generally seen as an insecure person with an inferiority complex who has weaknesses to hide. I see the Europeans and their fellow travelers in their " I.O.C. Hotel" in Vancouver as not just spoiled, but creepy. Maybe this is my unfair stereotype of them. Nevertheless, for a host of substantive reasons, I hope no American city ever again bids to host any Olympics. It is a waste of time and money. It is a frivolous diversion of precious resources and talent. There will be little commensurate enduring economic or social benefit to a locale. In metropolitan Chicago, still largely populated by progeny of European immigrants, few would ever again care whether or not European elitists look upon us fondly. If Lula wants them, Lula can have them.
Olympic games are not more than prestigious project costing money which is dearly missing for much more important projects. Same with football world championships (soccer worldcup?). Wasted ressources, as you already said. Regards from Europe Insulaner
BTraven 03/04/2010
4.
Zitat von grandloup71I know there are logistical aspects to choosing a location and am aware that Oberammergau and Garmisch are in the same vicinity, but surely a less expensive solution would be to use facilities that already exist? Both Oberstdorf and Ruhpolding are renowned for their history of hosting world cup and championship events - would it not make more sense for these existing facilities to be developed and retained for futire use as opposed to building a facility in Oberammergau only to take it down afterwards? It sounds like an Olympic-sized load of nonsense to me.
It is quite strange, indeed, not use the facilities which already exist, Ruhpolding for example, an heaven for biathletes. They will have their world championships there in 2012, so nothing has to be built. It seem to me that the conception of the games, especially the condition that the facilities should be within a certain area in order to make sure they can easily be accessed from the Olympia villages, is outdated. There is no need for such a centre. Instead athletes should live near the places where the competitions take place. It would cause a great boast for the economy of that mostly small villages.
Insulaner 03/04/2010
5. Citius, altius, fortius
Zitat von BTravenIt is quite strange, indeed, not use the facilities which already exist, Ruhpolding for example, an heaven for biathletes. They will have their world championships there in 2012, so nothing has to be built. It seem to me that the conception of the games, especially the condition that the facilities should be within a certain area in order to make sure they can easily be accessed from the Olympia villages, is outdated. There is no need for such a centre. Instead athletes should live near the places where the competitions take place. It would cause a great boast for the economy of that mostly small villages.
The motto of the olympic games as stated above probably is wrong. In reality it very likely is "bigger is better". Used facilities? Inacceptable. The old ones are, apart from having already lost some of the glossy surface, of course not big enough. Size really matters! I would expect the olympic committee to fully finance their games themselves, without "socialistic" aid from the taxpayers from the region where they locate the games. Maybe that would limit their gigantomanic behaviour.... Regards Insulaner
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