German FA scandal clouds Hamburg's Olympic referendum

BERLIN: The German football scandal over an alleged slush fund used to get the 2006 World Cup to the country is not helping Hamburg's 2024 Olympic bid ahead of the city referendum next month, bid chief executive Nikolas Hill said on Tuesday.

Hamburg is bidding for the summer Olympics along with Rome, Paris, Budapest and Los Angeles. The International Olympic Committee will elect the winning bid in 2017.

The northern port city will stage a referendum on Nov. 29 to decide whether the bid should go ahead, with officials confident of a strong support in favour of the candidacy which will earn it bonus points with the IOC but Hill said the soccer scandal was not doing them any favours.

"Hamburg 2024 stands for utmost transparency, and this is very well received among Hamburg's citizens," Hill told Reuters in an e-mail. "All the contracts we have concluded are there for anyone to read in the City of Hamburg transparency portal.

"Hamburg's citizens have also realised that in recent years the IOC has likewise made a lot of efforts in this regard, especially in the form of the 2020 reform agenda. Nevertheless, the debate about FIFA and the role played by DFB as the German Football Association does not help in the referendum."

Hamburg has proposed a compact inner-city bid, along the lines of Agenda 2020, a set of IOC reforms aimed at making the Olympics cheaper, more manageable and more attractive to cities.

Hill said the bid needed about a quarter of a million 'Yes' votes out of about one million for a quorum but said the majority of citizens were backing the bid.

"We assume that the majority of Hamburg's citizen supports the candidacy," Hill said. "What will be decisive, however, is that all those in favour actually vote.

"We need to achieve a double quorum. 20 percent of Hamburg citizens must vote and we need 20 percent of the votes to be a Yes, meaning about 260,000 votes."

Hamburg's concept involves the Games being held in the Kleiner Grasbrook area, technically an island but only a 10-minute walk from the city centre, that would become the Olympic park and would offer short distances for athletes and fans to the competition venues.

FOOTBALL CRISIS

"The 2020 reform agenda has been very well received in Germany," Hill said. "In the final instance, no one can estimate to what extent the Olympic movement's reputation will be tarnished by the current crisis in world football."

The German FA (DFB) is under extreme pressure after reports of an alleged slush fund with 6.7 million euros (5 million pounds) used to bribe officials of world soccer's governing body FIFA at the vote in 2000 to bring the 2006 tournament to Germany.

DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach has rejected the allegations but said his organisation was investigating a 2005 payment of the same amount to FIFA that German magazine Der Spiegel claimed was a return on a loan from then Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus via FIFA for the alleged slush fund.

Franz Beckenbauer, then World Cup organising committee chief, admitted on Monday the payment to FIFA was a mistake and was made on the suggestion of the FIFA finance committee in order to unlock a 170 million euro subsidy for the German tournament organisers. He denied that votes had been bought.

Niersbach, however, when asked last week why such a payment was necessary when the Germans were getting a much bigger amount back said he did not know.