Thu, Dec 16, 2010 - Page 18 News List

Farmers call for end to Munich bid

‘ALTERNATE PLANS’:Cross-country and biathlon events have been moved because of local opposition and a lawyer for the farmers’ group said the downhill course is next

AP, MUNICH

A group of Bavarian farmers and landowners is refusing to turn over land for Alpine ski races and is urging Munich to drop its bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The state government, however, said most of the land is not included in Olympic plans and a German Olympic official said the refusal will not affect Munich’s bid.

“The bid is not threatened and the bid books will be presented,” Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer said.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily reported on Tuesday that 59 -farmers and landowners have written to the Bavarian government saying they will not lease or sell their properties for the Olympics.

A lawyer for the group said that that without the farmers’ permission, the course for the showcase downhill event would need to be altered.

Munich is competing for the 2018 Games with Annecy, France, and Pyeongchang, South Korea. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select the host city in Durban, South Africa, on July 6 next year. The official bid books have to be presented by Jan. 11.

“The candidacy is in any case not in jeopardy,” said Michael Vesper, chairman of the board overseeing the bid and general secretary of the German Olympic Sports Union (DOSB).

The farmers said that they would inform the IOC themselves that their land was not available if Munich, the Bavarian capital, did not abandon its Olympic bid by Dec. 22.

“Most of the plots are inside the security zone that the International Olympic Committee -requires around Olympic venues,” lawyer Ludwig Seitz told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The finish area of the Kandahar downhill course is affected, he said. The Alpine skiing events are planned for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski resort about 90 minutes by train from Munich and the farmers are from the area.

Siegrfried Schneider, chief of staff of the Bavarian chancellery, told the newspaper, however, that most of the land was not included in the Olympic plans.

“The still open property questions can be resolved and do not threaten the bid,” Schneider told reporters after a local Cabinet session on Tuesday.

“The [Bavarian] government is in a close and constructive exchange” with the farmers and -landowners, Schneider said.

If needed, there were “alternate plans,” Schneider said, without giving details.

If there was no agreement with the landowners, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung said, the downhill would probably have to be relocated. The organizers already have had to move cross-country and biathlon events because of local opposition in Oberammergau.

DOSB chief and IOC vice president Thomas Bach ruled out one month ago that the Munich bid could fall apart because of the farmers’ refusal.

The Munich bid has run into a series of problems, most recently when the main opposition Greens Party refused to back the project.

The Munich 2018 bid committee said any opposition from landowners “will not endanger” the Olympic effort.

“Negotiations and talks are still in progress with the small percentage of landowners whose properties are impacted by the visionary plans; the majority of landowners in Garmisch-Partenkirchen remain unaffected,” the committee said in a statement.

The committee said it will “continue open dialogue with the remaining uncommitted landowners in order to secure the best possible financial arrangement for those concerned.”

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