By Nick Butler

A referendum will be held in Berlin to decide whether the city's bid for the 2024 Olympics goes ahead ©DPA/Getty ImagesA referendum will be held in Berlin in September if the city is chosen ahead of Hamburg as the German contender in the race for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.

The vote will go ahead only if the city is chosen ahead of rival challenger Hamburg by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), with a decision to be made on March 21.

The referendum, confirmed following the passing of a draft bill in the German Senate today, will see all Berlin citizens aged over 18 and holding a German passport eligible to vote.

But it risks the possibility of embarrassment following the failure of other recent German Olympic bids.

This was seen most recently in 2013, when a referendum over whether Munich should launch a bid for the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics was opposed by 52 per cent in the city itself, and by an even higher figure in the other regions consulted. 

"Only when we achieve a majority in the population on this day will we be in a position to start for 2024," DOSB President Alfons Hoermann said today.

"For us it is about making sure that a second Munich doesn't happen to us."

Berlin's only previous Olympic Games came in 1936, although the city was awarded the 1916 edition, eventually cancelled due to World War One ©Getty ImagesBerlin's only previous Olympic Games came in 1936, although the city was awarded the 1916 edition, eventually cancelled due to World War One ©Getty Images

Although widespread European apathy surrounding Olympic bids has been widely documented in recent times - with 2022 bids from Oslo, Kraków, Lviv and Stockholm having also been withdrawn - early indications are that support is higher in Germany.

A survey organised by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur late last year showed a majority of Germans back the bid, regardless of which city is proposed, while in Hamburg, a poll by broadcaster NDR found approval to be around 62 per cent.

With more extensive polls to be carried out by market research institute Forsa by the end of February, Hoermann added that public support for the Olympics would be "a decisive point" internationally when it comes to choosing the Olympics hosts.

However, it is possible that, if Hamburg is successful, it may now follow Berlin's lead and also hold a referendum.

The 2024 race took a major twist earlier this month with the announcement that Boston will be the United States' candidate in the fledgling contest, after beating off opposition from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

Rome is the only other confirmed candidate to have so far entered the race, although Paris, Budapest, Istanbul, Doha and Baku are also considering bids, while South Africa is potentially preparing a nationwide bid in what would be an Olympic first.

The winning bid will be announced at the IOC Session in Lima in September 2017, with the deadline for applications coming on September 15 following the opening of an eight month long invitation phase by the IOC on Thursday (January 15).

The German announcement follows the choice of Boston as the US contender for 2024 ©Getty ImagesThe German announcement follows the choice of Boston as the US contender for 2024 ©Getty Images

The Games have taken place in Berlin once before, in 1936, and were held most recently on German soil in 1972, in Munich.

But the country has enjoyed less success in recent times, with Leipzig being eliminated early in the contest for the 2012 Games, and Munich missing out to Pyeongchang in the 2018 Winter contest.

And the last time Berlin attempted to bid for an Olympic Games, for the 2000 edition eventually awarded to Sydney, there were a series of protests against the campaign.

This included fires, smashed windows, vandalised automobiles, disrupted athletics competitions and the explosion of bombs in front of buildings that were owned by three prominent sponsors of the bid, Daimler-Benz, Berliner Bank and Hertie's, a department store chain.

Four days before the final vote in Monte Carlo in 1993 in which Berlin were eliminated in the second round, tens of thousands of anti-Olympic protesters marched through the German capital to make clear their opposition to the campaign.

The referendum is now a major test to see if support has improved. 

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
December 2014: 
Bid process timetable for 2024 Olympics published by IOC
October 2014: Germany confirms bid to host 2024 Olympic Games - and 2028 if they fail first time
October 2014: Germany to proceed cautiously on 2024 Olympic bid to avoid "second Munich"
September 2014: Berlin and Hamburg outline concepts behind possible 2024 or 2028 Olympic bids
August 2014: Berlin Mayor to unveil plans for 2024 Olympic bid