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2ND LEAD German sports licks its wounds after no to Hamburg Olympic bid By John Bagratuni, dpa

Europe
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Berlin (dpa) - German high-performance sports will develop further despite the rejection of Hamburg‘s bid for the 2024 Olympics, but decades may now pass until the nation may get another chance to host the Games, according to sports officials and politicians.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed "regret" that 51.6 per cent of the voters said no to Olympics in the northern German port.

"But of course ... this result has to be respected. That‘s why you hold referendums, to find out what the people want. And it seems that the people in Hamburg didn‘t like the Olympics," deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said.

A spokesman for the interior ministry, which also handles sport, said that "future bids - at least in the near future - will not be easier with such a vote."

German athletics chief Clemens Prokop said that Olympics "won‘t be an issue for a generation" after the second rejection by the public of a German Olympic bid, following a 2013 referendum with a similar result on Munich‘s attempt to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach described Hamburg‘s rejection as a "missed opportunity" for the city and Germany.

Bach, a gold fencing medallist for Germany at the 1976 Olympics, said the vote came amid uncertainties over financing the Games and the challenge facing Germany in dealing with a high number of refugees.

The vote was also possibly influenced by doping and corruption scandals in other sports organizations, he said.

Former handball great Stefan Kretzschmar shared the view of many bitterly disappointed athletes when he said "the door to the Olympic world (is) closed forever."

German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) chief Alfons Hoermann told ARD television that the future and a planned reform of high-performance sport in the country will be discussed at Saturday‘s DOSB assembly.

"Now successful sport must be developed in Germany without the home Games," Hoermann said.

DOSB general director Michael Vesper said that "life goes on" and insisted that despite the no in Hamburg "we must continue to support sport for everyone, including high-performance sport."

Reasons believed to be behind the negative outcome include the general financial aspect; a large number of migrants coming to Germany, security concerns after the Paris attacks; scandals around major sports federations such as football‘s FIFA and athletics‘ IAAF; and the awarding of big sports events to countries with dubious human rights records including Russia and Qatar.

But, speaking of a "catastrophe", bob and luge federation president Andreas Trautvetter wondered whether Germany was sending the right signal by snubbing the Games.

"We approve double-digit billion figures to save banks and accommodate refugees and want to present ourselves as a broad-minded country - and then we don‘t want to invite the youth of the world to the most important high-performance sports event in the world," Trautvetter said.

Handball federation chief Andreas Michelmann said: "We criticise the Sochis and Dohas but are not able to stage sports events of this dimension ourselves."

There are now fears that the gap between dominating football and other sports will become even bigger, with already 43 years passed since the last German Olympics 1972 in Munich.

Volleyball federation chief Thomas Krohne spoke of "a stab in the back for the development ... below football in Germany;" and his basketball counterpart Ingo Weiss said he was convinced that a referendum on Euro 2024 would have a positive result as "Germany unfortunately is not a sports nation but a football nation."

Hoermann meanwhile admitted that the DOSB has no plan B because "we were not prepared for this scenario until today."

But Sylvia Schenk from Transparency International also told dpa that the DOSB must also do some internal soul-searching because it "lacked a basic strategy" and that it was too easy to blame issues such as migrants, security and the sports federations‘ crisis.

"You must position yourself much clearer and more strategically these days," Schenk said.

Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz, one of the masterminds of the bid, also came under some first fire when local Free Democrat Katja Suding suggested Scholz had failed to come up with a sound financial plan and government guarantees.

There are also fears in the city that necessary facelifts of existing venues and construction of new facilities will now be put on hold or scrapped altogether.

Hamburg sports senator Michael Naumann told NDR radio that "a majority of citizens ... shied away from the risk" and the city missed "a huge opportunity."

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