By Duncan Mackay

Thomas_Bach_in_Garmisch_February_2011March 31 - Thomas Bach (pictured), the President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, claimed today he is confident that residents in Garmisch-Partenkirchen will back Munich's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics after it was announced the town will hold a referendum in May to decide whether they want to be part of the campaign.

Officials in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is due to host the snow events if Munich's bid is successful, said two referendums - one for and one against taking part in the Olympics - had been accepted.

The group backing the "No" campaign, NOlympia, have condemned Munich's as environmentally unsound and succeeded in gathering some 2,500 signatures to force the referendum.

The votes will take place on May 8, only two days before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are due to publish the reports of the Evaluation Commission who have visited Munich along with its two rivals, Annecy and Pyeongchang. 

A group of farmers and landowners in the town, which hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics, have refused to cede their land for Olympic use despite giving it up for other events.

Bavarian Government officials say they hope to resolve the dispute with the farmers and the IOC Evaluation Commission said last month that they did not believe the situation would impact on Munich's bid. 

A vote against the Olympics would seriously undermine Munich's chances ahead of the IOC Session in Durban on July 6 where the host city will be chosen but Bach is confident that the residents who want the Games will come out on top.

"I expect in the referendum an overwhelming majority in favour of the Olympics and Paralympics," said Bach, who is also vice-president of the IOC and chairman of the Munich 2018 Supervisory Board.

"I am confident that the people of Garmisch will vote in favour of the Olympics and their region's development.

"Polls have shown that no other major project in Germany enjoys the support that Munich 2018 enjoys."

But Ludwig Hartmann, the founder of the NOlympia, claimed that they had a slight lead. 

"It will be a tight race and looks to be 50-50 or we may even have a slight lead," Hartmann told Reuters.

"But even if just 52 or 53 per cent vote against the Games then I don't think the IOC would even consider awarding them to a part of the world where the majority of local people do not want them."

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