Farmers dig in against Munich Olympics
Munich’s bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics faces fresh threats of derailment with 59 farmers categorically refusing to let their land be used for the games, media reported Tuesday.
Dozens of farmers and landowners from the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where ski events would be held, have written to the Bavarian state government ruling out the use of their land and demanding the government withdraw Munich’s bid for the games, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
If the Bavarian government has not withdrawn by December 22, the farmers plan to approach the International Olympic Committee directly and tell the organisation it cannot use their land for any games.
The farmer blockade has been brewing since this summer, when the chairman of the Pasture Association Garmisch, Josef Glatz, accused state leaders and the local Olympic committee of having simply assumed that the property was theirs to use if the region wins the bid and to have ignored warnings to the contrary.
Munich is competing against the town of Annecy in the French Alps and Pyeongchang, South Korea to host the games. The winning bid will be announced on July 6, 2011.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is already hosting the 2011 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February.
How great a blow the farmers' ultimatum is for the Munich bid is in dispute.
Some of the land lies at the finishing line of the famous Kandahar downhill run near the ski station of the Gudiberg and Hausberg mountains.
“All land lies within the safety zone that the IOC demands all around the Olympic grounds,” said lawyer Ludwig Seitz of the Munich firm Labbé und Partner, which is representing the farmers. Without this ground, the whole area would not function as a games venue, he said.
Previously the head of the state chancellery of Bavaria, Siegfried Schneider, has said the problem was being ironed out. Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer has praised Schneider for his handling of negotiations with farmers in the area.
Schneider told Süddeutsche Zeitung that the bid would not be ruined by the protests of the landowners.
“The bid is in no way threatened,” he said. “If it comes to it, there are back-up plans.”
Most of the landowners represented by Labbé und Partner were not affected by the Olympic planning, he said.
Sources close to the negotiations said parts of the farmers’ land could be relinquished by games organisers, though that would mean securing use of other areas that could also prove difficult.
“It’s getting harder to say, ‘It will work without your land,’” one government source told Süddeutsche Zeitung. “We still don’t have all the areas joined together.”
If the landowners dig in their heels, then other ski runs will need to be found and facilities moved. Because of protests in the Oberammergau municipality, plans for the cross-country and biathlon events have already had be shifted to the Ohlstadt municipality near the town of Garmisch.