MUNICH, Germany, May 8 (Reuters) - Munich’s 2018 winter Olympics bid received a big boost on Sunday when it came out top in a referendum in the Alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the planned site for the skiing events.
Residents voted in favour of the bid on two petitions with some 58 percent in favour of hosting the skiing events of the 2018 Games should Munich win the bid in July and 51 against a review of the contracts regarding the Games.
Bid opponents claiming the Games presented an environmental hazard for the valley had forced the referendum in an effort to derail Munich’s candidacy and make local opposition known to the IOC.
“The result of today’s poll confirmed the majority of the population is really in favour of staging Olympic and Paralympic winter events here in Bavaria,” bid CEO Bernhard Schwank said in a teleconference.
Munich is considered, along with South Korea’s Pyeongchang, as a frontrunner in the race with France’s Annecy seen as the outsider.
The International Olympic Committee will elect the winning bid during its session in Durban, South Africa on July 6.
“With this decision today we are very happy and we can look ahead...to July 6. We are very positive that we are in the race with our two competitors and have a great chance to win,” Schwank said.
Bid opponents have condemned Olympic plans as environmentally unsound and succeeded in gathering around 2,500 signatures to force the vote.
Some 59 percent of the electorate or 12,476 people voted on Sunday, officials said.
Munich, which hopes to become the first city to stage summer and winter Olympics, proposes holding the Games in the mountains around Garmisch, which hosted the 1936 winter Games, as well as the Bavarian city itself.
The bid has hit other snags recently with land owners refusing to free properties for Olympic use and environmental groups and the Green Party opposing the bid.
Writing by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story: firstname.lastname@example.org