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.

Farmers dig in against Munich Olympics
The Garmisch-Partenkirchen district. Photo: DPA

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If the Bavarian government has not withdrawn by December 22, the farmers plan to approach the International Olympic Committee directly and tell the organisation it cannot use their land for any games.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.

The Local/dw

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Four injured as WWII bomb explodes near Munich train station

Four people were injured, one of them seriously, when a World War II bomb exploded at a building site near Munich's main train station on Wednesday, emergency services said.

Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich.
Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Privat

Construction workers had been drilling into the ground when the bomb exploded, a spokesman for the fire department said in a statement.

The blast was heard several kilometres away and scattered debris hundreds of metres, according to local media reports.

Images showed a plume of smoke rising directly next to the train tracks.

Bavaria interior minister Joachim Herrmann told Bild that the whole area was being searched.

Deutsche Bahn suspended its services on the affected lines in the afternoon.

Although trains started up again from 3pm, the rail operator said there would still be delays and cancellations to long-distance and local travel in the Munich area until evening. 

According to the fire service, the explosion happened near a bridge that must be passed by all trains travelling to or from the station.

The exact cause of the explosion is unclear, police said. So far, there are no indications of a criminal act.

WWII bombs are common in Germany

Some 75 years after the war, Germany remains littered with unexploded ordnance, often uncovered during construction work.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about WWII bomb disposals in Germany

However, most bombs are defused by experts before they explode.

Last year, seven World War II bombs were found on the future location of Tesla’s first European factory, just outside Berlin.

Sizeable bombs were also defused in Cologne and Dortmund last year.

In 2017, the discovery of a 1.4-tonne bomb in Frankfurt prompted the evacuation of 65,000 people — the largest such operation since the end of the war in Europe in 1945.