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NEWS FEATURE Hamburg or Berlin? Germany to decide on Olympic candidate By Andreas Schirmer, dpa

Germany
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German Olympic officials are set to decide on the country‘s candidate city for the 2024 Summer Olympics in a neck and neck race between Berlin and Hamburg.

Dusseldorf (dpa) - Both Hamburg and Berlin are confident of getting the nod as German Olympic officials meet to decide which city to enter for the 2024 summer Games.

The winning bid city will be announced Monday evening after the German Olympic association DOSB meets from Sunday for final consultations.

"We won‘t be deciding against anyone but in favour of the right city," DOSB president Alfons Hoermann said. "The main aim is to bring the Olympics to Germany. What city is chosen is important, but secondary."

Hoermann is convinced that Germany with either the capital Berlin or the northern port city of Hamburg have concepts which can convince the International Olympic Committee IOC Session when it makes the final host decision in Lima, Peru in the summer of 2017. Either candidate can expect strong competition from Boston or Rome, the two cities so far to have confirmed bids.

It may well be that the United States appear to be favourites but the starting block is on the same place for all," said Hoermann, who points out that there are never greater surprises than when it comes to selecting hosts of major sporting events.

The eight DOSB executive members have a difficult choice to make between Berlin, enjoying the bonus of being the capital with greater international recognition, or Hamburg‘s port flair and attractive compact Games concept.

Bookmakers bwin have made Hamburg the favourite, and an opinion poll this week also showed greater local acceptance in the city for the Games. But the survey will not be the main criterium for the DOSB.

The decision will be based on factors including venues, finance, environment, sustainability, vision, Olympic village planning, accommodation and transport.

"The race for the Olympics between Hamburg and Berlin is not yet decided," Berlin mayor Michael Mueller said after the Forsa poll showed 55 per cent of Berlin residents backing an Olympic bid by the city.

Klaus Boeger, president of the Berlin sports federation, said: "Whether 55 per cent or 95 per cent does not matter. Now it‘s the other criteria that count."

Berlin can point to its status as a trend-setting capital city with the most important arenas - including the Olympic stadium - already in place. Hotel capacity is treble that of Hamburg‘s.

However debts of 60 million euros (63.5 million dollars) cannot be brushed aside in view of the unpredictable costs of hosting an Olympics.

According to Forsa‘s poll, 64 per cent of Hamburg residents approve the city hosting the Games - and backing is even stronger at 71 per cent among the 18 to 29-year-olds.

Hamburg‘s biggest selling point is its waterside ambience around the Alster Lake and River Elbe and the compact nature of its plans, with the main sport action to take place within a radius of 10 kilometres.

It may have fewer hotel beds but the city plans to have cruise ships docked on the Elbe housing thousands of Olympic guests, along with the use of hotels in the surrounding countryside.

"It is all very well prepared. I am a fan of the concept of short journeys," Hamburg football idol Uwe Seeler said.

And Olympic hockey winner Tobias Hauke spoke for many in saying that Hamburg, one of Germany‘s most attractive cities, could hardly be a better Olympic host venue,

"The city‘s infrastructure is predestined for summer Games," he said. "We have water and good arenas, and the enthusiasm for sport is pretty big."

Hamburg was among the cities to bid as the host German city for the 2012 Olympic Games, but ended up losing out to Leipzig in 2005.

Berlin, host of the 1936 Olympics, failed in its bid to host the 2000 Games.

DOSB leaders will meet on Sunday with the heads of the sports federations, who also want a say in which city is chosen. Both cities will also make final presentations.

The DOSB‘s official recommendation Monday is expected to be approved at its general assembly in Frankfurt on March 21.

The Olympic hosting race then begins in earnest. The next date will be for the DOSB and the bidding host city to register its candidacy with the IOC on September 15.

"The biggest mistake would then be to sit back and take things easy," DOSB Olympic envoy Bernhard Schwank said. "We have bitter experience of this."

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