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Munich snub highlights need for bid process review

By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - Munich's spectacular 2022 Olympics snub with citizens voting against a candidacy for the world's biggest winter sports event last week highlighted the need to review the process of bidding for the Games.

Munich looked to have good chances with only Kazakhstan's Almaty and Ukraine's Lviv having officially announced their intentions until that point on Sunday.

Yet the majority of citizens of all four communities, including the city of Munich, rejected the plan for a bid after the failed attempt to land the 2018 Games two years ago.

As jaws dropped in the star-studded and confident pro-Olympic camp following the announcement of results, the main explanation for what had just occurred was that the Germans were critical of major sports events and apprehensive of their benefits.

"I think it was not a problem with a concept but rather a growing criticism of parts of the population with mega sports events," Munich mayor Christian Ude said.

Franz Beckenbauer, one of the big names brought in to drum up support for a renewed Olympic candidacy, called the result "stupid" and a "missed opportunity". Olympic skiing champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, another supporter, said voting against the bid had been "narrow-minded".

The Munich snub came just days before Atlanta, host of the 1996 Olympics, announced the demolition of the Games stadium to make way for middle class homes, while Germany continued to debate the merit of hosting the Games'.

BRAZIL PROTESTS

Protest and construction delays plaguing Brazil ahead of next year's soccer World Cup and criticism levelled against Qatar for their preparations and workers' conditions for the 2022 tournament have no doubt worked in favor of a negative Munich vote.

Russia's own massive price tag of $50 billion to stage the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics and turn the Black sea resort into a winter sports hub has also done little to dispel any fears of massive bills and grave environmental impact.

There are also financial concerns, including what some in Munich have called "oppressive contracts" with the International Olympic Committee and an expensive bid process that can be close to $100 million for a summer Games campaign with no guarantees of success.

"The citizens shared our fears and the problems with the bidding such as cost and oppressive contracts with the IOC," said the Green party's Bavarian parliamentary leaders Ludwig Hartmann, a long-time opponent to the bid.

For the former long-time IOC marketing director Michael Payne, it is clear the current process is too complicated.

"I have been on the other side and the process has become way too bureaucratic, way too costly, let's be very clear," Payne told Reuters.

"If (Norway's) Lillehammer had to go through the process as it stands now I don't think they could or would have bid and they ended up organizing one of the most successful winter Games (in 1994)."

For new IOC president Thomas Bach, a revision of the bid process to enhance the appeal of the Olympic product is necessary.

ATTRACTIVE PRODUCT

The German, elected to the presidency in September, had told Reuters days before assuming the post: "Maybe we are asking too much of them (bid cities)."

"We must ensure that organizing the Games is attractive and feasible for as many cities and countries as possible. In this respect we may have to reconsider the bidding procedure to make it more encouraging while ensuring operational excellence."

Munich, at the foot of the German Alps, was not the only traditional European winter destination to pull out with Swiss Davos and St Moritz seeing their bid killed off by a referendum in March.

With six bid cities expected by Thursday's deadline, the 2022 campaign is double the number it was for the 2018 Games with Munich bidding alongside Annecy and winners Pyeongchang.

Sweden's Stockholm and Norway's Oslo have this week joined the 2022 race along with Almaty, Lviv, a joint Chinese bid from Beijing/Zhangjiakou, and Poland's Krakow. The IOC will announce the official list of candidates on Thursday.

"The IOC has a fine line to navigate. Naturally you want to remove risk issues before you elect," Payne said. "But on the other hand are you going too far? Is it too costly, too expensive to bid?"

He said it was important to provide a vision with the concept and communicate that vision successfully.

"Clearly what has happened in Brazil has been a reinforcement that the governments should have a proper vision and strategy and not go on some ego trip."

"I don't think the problem is the World Cup. The problem is 12 stadiums being built when eight would have sufficed."

"You have to make sure the process, the product, the end result is beneficial. Otherwise you are going to run out of volunteers to stage the Games," said Payne.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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