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Prague 2016 Bid Gets Opposition

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Czech President Václav Klaus questioned the viability of Prague bidding for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games on a Nov. 26 visit to Brno.

Klaus asked whether the entire country would profit from bringing an Olympics to Prague and expressed his doubts as to whether the Games would make a profit as estimated by Prague city officials. He told public officials, “I’m not sure whether the games would bring profit to this country”.

The Prague Post reports the president is worried about the large number of special facilities that may need to be built for a variety of different sports. He said he has talked to Greek officials about facilities they built for the 2004 Olympics and found they have at least one building no one uses anymore — a baseball stadium. An official told him no one in Greece plays baseball, Klaus said. “I’m worried that we’d have to develop facilities for sports that will hardly be followed by a single spectator later on.”

Representatives of Pražská olympijská, the company working on the Prague bid, said the Prague Games would not bring dozens of new sporting facilities to Prague. In fact, only three new stadiums would be built, and dozens of other existing facilities would be refurbished to give Prague the number of Olympic sites it needs, said company director Tomáš Petera.

Most Olympic sites would be just temporary, said Czech Olympic Committee (ÈOV) Vice Chairman for Economy Jiøí Zedníèek following the U.K. example, where London is preparing to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

“In contrast to Athens, where 70 percent of new sports stadiums were built ‘once and for all,’ we would — similar to London — develop sites that would in the future be able to be converted to other than sports facilities,” Zedníèek said. “Only about 30 percent of the Olympic sites would remain permanent.” Even the possible main Olympic stadium in Letòany (Prague 6) would be developed in such a way that it could later be transformed into part of a trade fair centre, he said.

Local politicians have also spoken out against a Prague bid. Mayors from smaller towns say that investment into developing Olympic infrastructure in Prague could halt investments in other regions of the country.

“We’ve got nothing against sports and the Olympic idea. But we’re afraid that if the Prague Olympic bid is sponsored from the state budget, small towns especially will then find it difficult to secure some investments for themselves,” said Vojtìch Krauz, mayor of the central Bohemian town of Meèeøíž.

Other mayors want voters to decide whether the country supports an Olympic bid or not and are calling for a public referendum on the issue.

Hosting the Olympics in Prague would cost 135 billion Kè ($7.5 million) in direct costs, according to an independent case study by PricewaterhouseCoopers commissioned by Prague Town Hall. Another 600 million Kè would need to be invested in non-sports infrastructure such as roads or hotels, according to the study.

An Olympic bid can only be successful if it receives support from the whole country, Prague Olympic Company head Tomas Petera said. He admits Prague’s chance of hosting the 2012 games is rather low, but said officials are also determined to bid for the 2020 or 2024 games. “Still,” he says, “we have to try our hardest now.” Write or read comments about this article

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