Hamburg's decision to snub Olympics chimes with HSV's grounded approach

The city’s decision to vote against hosting the 2024 was borne out of Hamburg’s cautious mood, reflected in the resurgence of Bruno Labbadia’s side

“A slight majority of Hamburg’s residents decided to vote against hosting the 2024 Olympics,” state broadcaster Deutsche Welle ruefully reported after the surprising referendum result on Sunday. Considering that Paris, Rome, Los Angeles and Budapest are the remaining contenders to stage the Games that year, DW’s take on the fiasco was maybe a little reminiscent of the famous “Heavy Fog in Channel. Continent cut off” headline in the Times from 1957 in its unintentional presumptuousness.

Alas, the lack of any realistic chance to win the bid was only one of a number of factors that put Germany’s northern metropolis off. There were also worries about terror, gentrification, the ongoing challenge of the refugee crisis and an unease about the process itself in the wake of the 2006 World Cup voting scandal that has embroiled the German FA. But perhaps members of the “NOlympia” camp simply failed to see the attraction of wasting new, huge sums of money on sport over a prolonged period of time with only questionable benefits for the locals, as Hamburger SV have been doing the very same thing so well already. Who needs a new €1bn sports complex on a river island, when you’ve got the self-styled “dinosaur” on your doorstep, the Bundesliga’s very own white elephant and living monument of grandiose ambitions gone hilariously wrong?

One of the better jokes doing the rounds on Twitter after the Nein vote reminded Hamburgers that they couldn’t turn things around in the relegation play-off this time. (The Rothosen, red shorts, managed to escape the drop to Bundesliga 2 twice in the last two years with dramatic success in the play-offs.) It won’t come to that next May, though.

Bruno Labbadia’s side has mostly played surprisingly respectable stuff this season, and a 3-1 win in the derby away to sorry neighbours Bremen on Saturday has put them as high as seventh in the table with 21 points, only two off the Champions League places. “It’s been a miraculous transformation,” wrote an incredulous Süddeutsche Zeitung; “a comeback into well-off circles after two horror years,” FAZ agreed, equally perplexed.

The weakness behind Bayern Munich and second-placed Dortmund, who denied the leaders an early Herbstmeisterschaft (winter championship) with another superb performance (4-1 v Stuttgart), might well see HSV have the last laugh this season. There are strong indications that the end of the hubristic Rafael van der Vaart/Marcell Jansen/Heiko Westermann years at the Volksparkstadion – all three left in the summer, along with 12 others – has freed up space for a younger, more eager team to grow.

The Croat Ivo Illicevic, the scorer of the lovely opening goal after only three minutes, the much-improved Lewis Holtby and the pacy forward Nicolai Müller – who scored the away team’s third after Michael Gregoritsch had dispatched a free-kick into Werder’s net courtesy of a freakish deflection and Anthony Ujah had pulled one back for Victor Skripnik’s men – are beginning to prove their numerous detractors wrong. HSV play as a team at last, with high-energy work in defence and well-practiced counter-attacks. A new-found confidence under Labbadia has clearly helped, too.

Unfortunately, the dinosaur’s resurrection as a credible top-half-of-the-table contender run did nothing to affect the cautious general mood in the city in relation to the Olympics poll, as big, international dreams are expressly “not allowed at the new HSV” (Morgenpost) either: the existential troubles of yesteryear are still too present for anyone to take any flights of fancy. “We have to keep our feet on the ground,” warned defender Johan Djourou, who’s not always been able to do just that on the pitch in the past. (His colleague Emir Spahic, an even bigger culprit in that respect, missed the trip to the Weserstadion through injury, which was probably just as well.) “We know that it can go the other way very quickly,” said the Swiss centre-back.

The one sour note of an afternoon made even sweeter by rival Werder’s misery – the Green and Whites are perilously close to the relegation places after their ninth defeat – was striker the HSV striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga dislocating his shoulder. It’s unclear how long the 23-year-old will be out of action but his absence will no longer be as keenly as felt as in recent seasons when, at times, his goals alone were keeping his team alive. Labbadia has cleverly downplayed the effect of other prominent squad members being injured in order to motivate their replacements. It’s not rocket science but a simple ploy, well executed, and the same goes for Hamburg’s football this season

In addition to all that merriment, Sunday’s “no” vote could yet help bring back international football to the Volksparkstadion – by 2024, at the latest. Hamburg pulling out of the Olympics should strengthen Germany’s chance to stage the European championship that year.

Talking points

• Negotiations weren’t supposed to start in earnest before Christmas but as Pep Guardiola found out on Sunday, Santa alias Nikolaus arrives at the beginning of December in Bavaria. The Spanish coach was presented with a new contract by a fan in Nikolaus guise (“You can fill in the wages yourself”) on stage at a meeting with supporters’ club “Bayern Bazis Vilsbiburg”. Guardiola explained that he loved Munich (“amazing”) and added that the city “would be a good reason” to renew his contract beyond next summer but pointedly refused to sign Santa’s clause(s). This one’s not about money, for a change. But Bayern’s dominance in a league where even a fourth-placed team like Hertha (beaten 2-0 at the Allianz Arena ) only come to defend with 10 men in the box is such that Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has sought out a new enemy. “Central marketing of TV rights is their last remaining domestic opponent, they’ve outgrown the league,” commented FAZ after Rummenigge had threatened the Bundesliga with going it alone in the future. Bayern are unhappy that the Premier League’s new TV deal will relegate them to 26th in the European ranking in TV revenue terms and warned that the league needed to ensure that “clubs stayed competitive internationally” by increasing the current TV deal to at least €1bn per year.

• Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored two more goals, the first one a real beauty, to up his tally to 17 in 14 games. BVB’s 4-1 win over Stuttgart, coached by interim manager Jürgen Kramny, showed once again that Dortmund, too, are in a league of their own in second place, head and shoulders above sides such as Wolfsburg (0-0 at Augsburg), Leverkusen and Schalke (1-1 at the BayArena) who also harbour Champions League ambitions. Gladbach, however, continue to be convince under André Schubert. The Foals whisperer had substitute Nico Elvedi hand out a sheet with instructions to a couple of team-mates shortly before Fabian Johnson equalised for a final score of 3-3 with Hoffenheim. “It wasn’t a Harry Potter trick, only tactics,” insisted Schubert. But the 44-year-old has certainly cast his spell on the side since taking over from Lucien Favre – they’re still unbeaten in nine league games.

Results: Darmstadt 0-0 Köln, Bayern 2-0 Hertha, Werder 1-3 HSV, Hannover 4-0 Ingolstadt, Mainz 2-1 Frankfurt, Hoffenheim 3-3 Gladbach, Dortmund 4-1 Stuttgart, Augsburg 0-0 Wolfsburg, Leverkusen 1-1 Schalke.