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Hamburg is latest to drop out of bidding for 2024

In Sunday’s referendum, Hamburg citizens voted on whether it should bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and opponents won with 51.6 percent.
In Sunday’s referendum, Hamburg citizens voted on whether it should bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and opponents won with 51.6 percent.Axel Heimken/EPA/EPA

And then there were four.

On Sunday, the residents of Hamburg, Germany, rejected the city's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. That leaves Paris, Rome, Los Angeles, and Budapest still in contention for those Games. But between now and September 2017, when the International Olympic Committee selects the host city, the number of candidates could dwindle even more. Just look at the trend lines.

Hamburg follows Boston's withdrawal from 2024 and joins a long list of cities that have backed out of bidding for upcoming Games. While polling indicated that Hamburg's Olympic ambition had 63 percent support, opponents won with 51.6 percent of the vote in a public referendum.


It wasn't the first time German voters derailed Olympic plans. Two years ago they rejected Munich's bid to host the 2022 Olympics.

Both the Hamburg and Boston withdrawals come after the International Olympic Committee passed Agenda 2020, reforms it hoped would make the Games more cost-effective and more attractive to cities, especially those on the scale of Hamburg and Boston.

But clearly, Hamburg's projected costs of $11.9 billion didn't look attractive to voters. And maybe Boston had a little to do with that.

In October, representatives from No Boston Olympics visited Hamburg, meeting with bid opposition leaders and offering advice.

"When voters are given a choice about these bids and when they're given good information about the pros and cons, more often than not they're voting them down," said Chris Dempsey, cochairman of No Boston Olympics.

"Until the IOC fundamentally changes its model, beyond the window dressing that we saw in Agenda 2020, I think you're going to see smart, informed cities around the world saying that hosting the Games is just not worth it."

As with almost all scrapped bids, no one issue swayed Hamburg voters, though financing concerns factored prominently in discussions. Like Boston, Hamburg needed to build many of the highest-priced facilities — the stadium, velodrome, aquatic complex, media center, and Olympic village — from scratch. Also, like Boston organizers, Hamburg bid leaders tried to sell the Games as a catalyst to reinvent part of the city and give the area greater international exposure.


The recent Paris terrorist attacks and the uncertain long-term impact of the Syrian refugee crisis also may have built momentum against Hamburg's bid.

Another issue making headlines and influencing the bid debate: a FIFA-related soccer scandal. Surprise, surprise.

There have been reports alleging German soccer leaders used a $7.4 million slush fund to bribe FIFA officials and bring the 2006 World Cup to Germany. Not the headlines Olympic bid leaders want when promoting the transparency of their efforts. And not what IOC president Thomas Bach wants to see coming from his home country.

On Monday, Bach released a statement about the Hamburg referendum. He said the IOC respects the vote and recognizes the "particular and difficult circumstances" in which it took place. He referred to the refugee crisis and the "widespread feelings of uncertainty" it has created in Germany.

He also mentioned the doping and corruption scandals in other sports organizations and speculated that they may have affected the vote. Basically, the IOC and Bach did their best at damage control.

But they know that today's sports world is a tangled web in which FIFA's troubles can create blowback for the IOC and Boston can export its No Olympics expertise.


Kenyans caught

File under disappointing but not surprising news: Kenyan running dominance isn't as natural as it appears. Last week, Athletics Kenya, the governing body of track and field in the East African nation, suspended seven athletes for using performance-enhancing drugs.

That number included two-time world cross-country champion Emily Chebet, who was suspended from competition until July 2019 for taking furosemide, which treats fluid buildup. The World Anti-Doping Agency placed furosemide on the banned list because it can be a masking agent. The other suspended athletes included a 400-meter hurdler, a 400-meter runner, a marathoner, and three road racers.

Then on Monday, track and field's international governing body provisionally suspended Athletics Kenya president Isaiah Kiplagat and two other officials for 180 days. The IAAF ethics commission is trying to determine whether the three subverted Kenya's anti-doping controls and diverted funds from Nike for personal use. There has been an investigation of doping coverups in Kenya since March.

It appears the IAAF is making good on a verbal warning shot from Dick Pound, WADA's founding president. During a lengthy press conference about Russia's systematic state-sponsored doping practices, Pound took a question about Kenya.

"It seems pretty clear that Kenya has a real problem," Pound said. "If they don't do a good job [investigating and cleaning up their act], then I think someone else will do a job for them."

The latest suspensions come 10 months after Athletics Kenya announced that three-time Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo would be banned from competition for two years.


For Kenya and its proud distance runners, it seems the trouble is just starting as the 2016 Rio Olympics approach.

Sharp skating

When the World Figure Skating Championships take over TD Garden at the end of March, it's a good bet the stands will be filled with Japanese fans. They love figure skating and reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. Over the weekend, Hanyu, 20, smashed three world records on his way to the winning the NHK Trophy in Nagano. He won the short program (106.33) and free skate (216.07 points) with the highest scores in history. And his total of 322.40 points was also the highest . . . There's reason for local figure skating fans to cheer, too. On Nov. 21, US skater Ross Miner, who trains at the Skating Club of Boston, won his third career Grand Prix bronze medal at the Rostelecom Cup.

Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShiraSpringer.