(ATR) German chancellor Angela Merkel says Munich has a "very good
chance" of winning the race to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
IOC vice president Thomas Bach, commission chair Gunilla Lindberg and Munich 2018 leader Katarina Witt pose for pictures before their dinner with the German chancellor. (ATR)
"I believe we have a very good chance of reliving the summer fairytale [the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany] as a winter fairytale in 2018. I am hopeful of this," Merkel told reporters Thursday before dining with the 11-member IOC delegation at a state banquet in the Bavarian city.
"The world can look forward to Germany hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games 2018," she added.
Merkel discussed the government's backing for the bid with IOC Evaluation Commission chair Gunilla Lindberg and her colleagues over dinner at the Munich Residenz, former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs.
Merkel, government ministers and Munich 2018 bid officials offered reassurances to the IOC that Germany's cabinet reshuffle would not affect the government's support for the bid.
Concerns had been expressed in some quarters that the resignation of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg as defense minister following revelations that he plagiarized sources in his PhD thesis would have an impact on Merkel's center-right coalition. The issue was under scrutiny ahead of the upcoming state elections, which will help decide any shift in opposition against the government in the upper house of parliament.
New defense minister Thomas de Maiziere and Hans-Peter Friedrich, his replacement as interior minister, both dined with the IOC commission Thursday evening in Munich.
Merkel poses with the Evaluation Commission in Munich Residenz. (ATR)
In a statement from Bach about Germany’s Cabinet reshuffle and its impact on sport in Germany, he said: "I am sure that the good cooperation between the DOSB [German Olympic Sports Confederation] and the Ministry of the Interior, with designated minister Hans-Peter Friedrich as its head, will continue."
Bach, who is president of the Germany Olympic Confederation and chair of the Munich 2018 Shareholders Board, added: "The best proof is the fact that he will present to the IOC Evaluation Commission on Friday to underline the support and guarantees of the Federal Government for Munich’s bid to host the 2018 Winter Games."
Earlier in the day, the IOC delegation toured the Olympic Park venues that hosted the 1972 Summer Games, which are set to be revamped and reconfigured for a Munich 2018 Games. In the morning, commission members heard presentations on the themes of finance, marketing, technology and media operations.
Olympic Park Venues
At the Olympic Park, commission members visited several venues including the iconic 1972 Olympic Stadium which
would be refurbished to host the 2018 opening and closing ceremonies in front of a capacity 70,000 crowd.
Munich's 1972 Olympic Stadium would host the 2018 opening and closing ceremonies if the city wins hosting rights (ATR)
The tour also took in the Olympic Ice Arena, proposed as the venue for figure skating and short track, the Olympic Aquatics Center that would become the curling venue and the Event Arena, slated to stage ice hockey.
Bid chair Katarina Witt, a double Olympic champion in figure skating in 1984 and 1988, said she believed the visit to the proposed 2018 Ice Park had sent a very strong message to the IOC Evaluation Commission.
"The members could see for themselves the enduring 40-year sustainable legacy of the Munich Olympic Park. They also saw how the park will be transformed to leave another 40-year legacy after 2018."
Uli Hoeness, honorary president of FC Bayern Munich, one of Germany's most storied football clubs, personally welcomed the IOC commission to the Olympic Park and spoke to them before 40 members of the national and international media outside the 1972 Olympic Stadium.
Hoeness won Olympic football gold at the stadium and picked up a winners' medal at the 1974 FIFA World Cup after Germany beat Holland in the final at the venue.
"Together with millions of German sports fans, I have wonderful memories of our Olympic Stadium. The Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2018 will add a new chapter in its sensational history and will continue the Olympic tradition of Munich for many decades to come," he said.
Honorary IOC member Walter Troeger was on hand to talk to the IOC delegation about the proposed plans for the 2018 Olympic Village. He was the Olympic Village Mayor at the Munich 1972 Games.
"Munich 2018 is an incredibly compact concept in the beautiful surroundings of the Olympic Park; it is quite an ingenious plan," he told them.
"If athletes are within walking distance, they have more time to prepare for their competition and to relax. This is also how it was in 1972."
On Friday, the IOC and media covering the inspection visit will tour the sliding center at Königssee, a nearly two-hour drive from Munich.
The IOC's wrap-up press conference with Lindberg and Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli takes place at 17.30 CET. Munich 2018 will hold a news conference directly afterwards.
Written by Mark Bisson in Munich
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