Protest against olympic plans: how the ioc catches the bear

The new alliance against a Berlin Olympic bid protests in front of the Red City Hall. On Tuesday, the Senate wants to decide on the first steps for a bid.

Small, but determined: Demo on Monday in front of the Red City Hall. Image: dpa

The tourist from Beijing can’t believe it. "A demonstration against the Olympics?" he asks, shaking his head. Then his features brighten. "There aren’t really many, though." In fact, only about 40 activists came to the kick-off of the "NOlympia campaign" on Monday in front of the Neptune Fountain at the Red City Hall.

The rally, whose motto is adorned with a yellow banner, seems somewhat staid and well-behaved: "Lieber wat jutet statt Olympia!" One of the small slogans reads "Spartakiade instead of Olympia". But Judith Demba is serious. The former Green Party member of parliament, who together with Harald Wolf of the PDS led the anti-Olympics protest in the House of Representatives in 1993, is convinced that she will be successful this time as well: "We have become more," she says, "and when the summer is over, we will become even more. Berlin needs many things, but not an Olympic bid."

That’s also the view of a majority of Berliners, as the latest survey by Forsa showed. According to the survey, only a slim majority of 52 percent favored a Berlin bid for the 2024 or 2028 Games, while 46 percent opposed it. A figure that is unlikely to please the Senate, as the SPD and CDU have made it clear from the outset that a bid will only go ahead if a large majority of Berliners support it.

Conviction still needed

But even the opponents of the Olympics cannot rest on their laurels. One activist at Monday’s rally stressed that 18- to 29-year-olds are clear Olympics fans, with 74 percent approval. "We still have a lot of convincing to do there," he says. "Especially when it comes to the threat of rising rents."

Monday’s performance, however, is aimed more at the graying protest crowd. During the rally, a white Golf with Swiss license plate "IOC 007" pulls up. Three gentlemen in dark suits and sunglasses get out and head for an Olympic bear dressed in brown fur, standing behind a banner and not unlike Hertha mascot Herthinho.

Shortly after, the darkies push him into the fictional Swiss car. "Give our bear back," Demba shouts into the mic. "I don’t want him to turn yellow." The yellow bear, that was the symbol of Berlin’s failed Olympic bid for the 2000 Games, which were eventually held in Sydney.

The reason for the rally is a decision by the Senate. Today, Tuesday, Demba announced, red-black wants to decide on the submission of the application form to the German Olympic Sports Confederation DOSB. "Contrary to all assurances, neither the population nor the parliament has been asked so far," she says.