So a momentum, sport in Germany has not sparked such enthusiasm beyond football for a long time. Sheer delight in athletes who hardly anyone knows, who will never become millionaires, who may only be in the limelight at the European Championships for one day, for example on the climbing wall, in the rowing canal or in the Munich Olympic Stadium. What did they leave behind for their viewers? Apparently the feeling of having experienced something wonderful in the middle of the war in Ukraine and an energy crisis, between inflation and the next wave of corona: A summer fairy tale – like in 2006 during the World Cup.
And so it is fitting that between the end of the European Championships and the memory of the opening of the Summer Games 50 years ago, the longing for a greater fairy tale was expressed at the same point; by politicians, by athletes, by the President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation: “We want the Olympics.”
They have often wanted this in a united Germany. Seven Olympic campaigns have failed since 1992, most recently in 2021 the “Rhein-Ruhr 2032” region lost to Australia. Sometimes it was because of the amateurishness of the organizers, sometimes because of the will of the citizens. In 2015, for example, the people of Hamburg voted against the city’s application for the 2024 summer games.
The IOC has an image problem
Olympic Games cost many billions of euros. The refusal in Hamburg was also related to concerns about having to foot the bill in favor of a private drinking club. The International Olympic Committee under its German President Thomas Bach has the image of being a greedy, unscrupulous profiteer. That contributed to the rejection.
In Munich, commentators attributed the rousing success of the European Championships to the absence of the International Olympic Committee. No stream, and it’s already running? The world is more complicated. Without the money that the IOC collects from its games and then distributes, many of the international federations such as rowing, climbing and canoeing could not survive the Olympics, the period between the games. Especially not in a corona phase. That would be no reason to roll out the red carpet for the ladies and gentlemen of the International Olympic Committee. But a look at the German associations, at German sport, and not just the academies, shows where things are missing. At every nook and cranny namely.
The successes in Munich whitewash the level of performance in athletics, for example. He’s anything but shiny. This also applies to the condition of the sports facilities in the republic, which are dilapidated in many places. Billions would be needed to rehabilitate it. That money is not in sight. The pandemic made it clear what value influential politicians attach to children’s sports in clubs and schools: a low one.
Opponents of a campaign for the Olympic and Paralympic Games rightly argue that it is more important to establish sport and exercise as an important part of education, to invest in programs for lifelong sporting activities, than to return to the top of the medal table with sometimes expensive and outdated disciplines . A decades-old topic.
Olympia can overcome darkness
But movement came about on most levels only thanks to the prospect of the Olympic Games. Nothing changed about that. And so there is an opportunity in this unfortunate dependency. Because an application process by critical Germans can only be successful in Germany if it solves the difficult tasks: How, for example, can a major event be reconciled with environmental protection? How is it possible to convince the people who vote on an application that they should use their tax money so enormously? How can the claim of the International Olympic Committee be reduced to an acceptable level and both athletes and athletes given back what is theirs instead of letting them practice gymnastics in dictatorships?
This is at best possible with a national agreement. It would have to extend from sports to clubs, business and culture to the chancellery and ask the question: are we still able to think big and boldly?
It was the designer Otl Aicher and the architect Günter Behnisch. With the colors and forms they used to dress up the 1972 Olympics, they gave the nation the impression of being able to overcome the dark – and this was not entirely undone by the Palestinian terrorist attack. You could still see and feel that half a century later – in the Munich Olympic Stadium, which was made to vibrate by the enthusiasm of the athletes and spectators.