March 30 - Munich 2018 has launched a new initiative that allows small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to sign up to support its bid to host the 2018 Olympics and Paralympics.

The first group of businesses - APA Group, an advertising firm, Autobus Oberbayern, a transport company, Drees & Sommer, a property group, the Munich and Upper Bavaria Chamber of Trade and Industry and Sporthaus Schuster, a sports retailer - will provide financial support for the Munich 2018 bid.

Each company is a locally based leader in its business category.

They will take advantage of the marketing opportunities associated with the Friends of the Bid programme, developed by the Munich and Upper Bavaria Chamber of Trade and Industry to enable companies which are part of Germany's vital and influential SME sector to play a key role in the bid.

A number of globally renowned German companies including BMW, Lufthansa and Adidas are already partners of the bid.

"Support for the bid from the SMEs is of special importance, both professionally and financially," said Willy Bogner, the chief executive of the Munich 2018 bid.

"It clearly demonstrates that regional businesses are totally supportive of our bid.

"They are demonstrating how much they want the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to come to our region."

Chamber of Commerce President, Erich Greipl, believes that hosting the winter Games offers the perfect global showcase for the region's technologically and ecologically pioneering products and will help reinvigorate the international brand of Munich and Upper Bavaria.

"Large-scale sports events in the past, like the 1972 Olympic Games and the 1974 and 2006 FIFA World Cups, demonstrated impressively to the world what a progressive, cosmopolitan and friendly place Munich is to do business with," said Greipl.

Brigitte Golchert of the APA Group explained the rationale for her company's support.

She said: "We have been co-partners to the German Olympic team for a number of years so it was only natural for us to help the Bid Committee publicise Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen as attractive venues.

"As producers of large-format advertising, we are perfectly equipped to convey this message in every possible form.

"This is how we intend to help raise awareness of the Munich 2018 bid."

Nico Schoenecker, the managing director of Autobus Oberbayern said: "There can few better ways of presenting the Munich region globally than hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

"To this day we can still feel the positive effects of the 1972 Olympic Games and the 1974 and 2006 FIFA World Cups.

"As a Munich-based group of companies that profits from the coach transport business associated with the exhibition, conference and events industry, we should like to see this outstanding sports event being held in Munich.

"We are also sure that the Munich bid can set new standards in environmental protection and, as providers of eco-friendly transport, we would like to support that."

Professor Dr. Thomas Bohn, the managing director of Drees & Sommer GmbH, Munich, claimed a sustainable, climate-neutral Munich Games will support the sustainability and green building imperatives of the property industry and could help change attitudes.

"High profile projects with the kind of public impact that the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games have, can potentially bring about a social rethink with a knock-on effect," he said.

Flori Schuster, the managing director of sports retailer Sporthaus Schuster, whose flagship store is in Munich's main square,said: "We like to think of ourselves as the Olympic sports shop."

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