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3RD LEAD Hamburg Olympic bid stopped in referendum in another German fiasco By Franko Koitzsch, dpa

Europe
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Hamburg (dpa) - Germany‘s Olympic ambitions ended for the second time in 24 months in a referendum when Hamburg‘s bid for the 2024 Games was turned down on Sunday.

Opponents garnered 51.6 per cent of the vote while those in favour had only 48.4 per cent in the provisional final result issued by the statistical office in the latest fiasco for the nation‘s sport.

Mayor Olaf Scholz had already conceded defeat before all 650,106 valid votes had been counted, saying that "Hamburg will not bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2024.

"The senate and I would have preferred a different decision, but it is a clear one."

German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) chief Alfons Hoermann said the result marked "a harsh setback and hit below the belt for sporting Germany. We were convinced to have made the right choice with Hamburg."

It was the second Olympic bid turned down in the country within two years, after the locals also vetoed a Munich bid for the 2022 Winter Games in November 2013.

Around 1.5 million people were eligible to vote in Hamburg and the proposed sailing events city of Kiel, with the latter seeing a big majority of 65.57 per cent in favour which however was to no avail.

Hamburg‘s withdrawal leaves Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Budapest as the four bidders for 2024. The host city is elected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2017.

Hamburg won a national race against Berlin and submitted its bid with a compact inner-city concept to the IOC by the September 15 deadline.

Opinion polls were promising but support dwindled from 63 to 57 per cent lately although Scholz and sports officials remained positive that they would get a majority.

However, a wide range of reasons - ranging from environmental and financial concerns to security issues in the wake of the Paris attacks, and corruption and doping affairs plaguing major sports organisations and also tarnishing Germany‘s hosting of the 2006 football World Cup - had led many to voice their opposition.

"It disappoints me that people don‘t see that this is about sports," a tearful Paralympics gold medallist Kirsten Bruhn said, foreseeing a bleak future for high-performance sport in the country.

The DOSB had hoped to boost many sports through the bid in a difficult fight against the dominant football scene and amid budget cuts from the government.

"It will be very very difficult to develop an idea because obviously Germany and the Olympic idea don‘t match at the moment," Hoermann said.

Football meanwhile could see the next big event in Germany as the country is bidding to host the Euro 2024 tournament.

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