German celebrities gear up for wild wok race

A handful of German celebrities will hurtle down an Olympic bobsled track in modified Chinese woks at the seventh annual Wok World Championship in Germany on Saturday, organisers said.

German celebrities gear up for wild wok race
Photo: DPA

Inspired by a German TV show in 2003, thousands of people each year watch the competitors – ranging from popstars to Olympic winter sports athletes – throwing themselves down the mile-long track at up to 100 kilometers/hour (60 miles/hour) on live television.

“In the last years an average of three million people have followed the event,” spokesman Michael Ostermeier of commercial channel ProSieben told AFP.

Saturday’s competition will include one-man and team races in four-person wok-sleds.

Tour de France cyclist Erik Zabel and Cora Schumacher, wife of Formula One racing driver Ralf Schumacher, are just two of the daredevils who will take to the starting blocks.

“The pilots will have modified soup ladles attached to their feet which will help them to steer the wok,” Ostermeier said.

Previous winning teams include Olympic ski jumper Sven Hannawald and racing driver turned Playboy model Christina Surer.

After excessive advertising caused a Berlin court to rule that the event must be labelled a commercial event, German media have referred to it as the “most dangerous infomercial” of all time.

“In 2007 the singer from the German band Oomph! suffered a severe concussion, after which we decided to introduce weight limits of 130 kilogrammes (287 pounds) for the one-man woks,” Osterman explained, adding that participants also wear protective gear, similar to ice hockey equipment.


German newspaper Bild prints cut-out kippa to fight anti-Semitism

German daily Bild published a cut-out-and-use kippa on Monday in a bid to fight rising anti-Semitism, after Jews were warned about the potential dangers of wearing the traditional skullcap in Germany.

German newspaper Bild prints cut-out kippa to fight anti-Semitism
A man wearing a kippa in Hesse. Photo: DPA

Over the weekend, Felix Klein, the German government's commissioner on anti-Semitism, said he “cannot advise Jews to wear the kippa everywhere all the time in Germany”, in an interview given to the Funke regional press group.

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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin voiced shock at Klein's warning and said it was a “capitulation to anti-Semitism” and evidence that Jews are unsafe in Germany.

Bild, Germany's top-selling daily newspaper, waded into the debate, calling on readers to “stand in solidarity with (their) Jewish neighbours” by making “their own kippa”, bearing the star of David, to “raise the flag against anti-Semitism”.

Rejecting the warning to leave off the kippa “seven decades after the Holocaust”, Bild's chief editor Julian Reichelt wrote: “There is only one answer to that: No, it cannot be the case!

“If that is so, then we have failed in the face of our history,” he said.

Urging readers to cut out the skullcap and wear it, Reichelt stressed that “the kippa belongs to Germany.”

Germany, like other western countries, has watched with alarm as anti-Semitic and other racist hate speech and violence have increased in recent years while the political climate has coarsened and grown more

Anti-Semitic crimes rose by 20 percent in Germany last year, according to Interior Ministry data which blamed nine out of 10 cases on the extreme right.

The arrival in parliament of the far-right AfD, whose leaders openly question Germany's culture of atonement for World War II atrocities, has also contributed to the change in atmosphere.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has also deplored “another form of anti-Semitism” stemming from a major asylum-seeker influx, with many coming from Muslim countries like Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq.

“That the number of anti-Semitic crimes is increasing should be a cause of great concern for all of us in Germany,” Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.

“It is the task of the state to ensure that everyone can move freely with a kippa anywhere in our country and we stand by that responsibility.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has already issued several warnings about wearing the kippa in public.

In one prominent case last year, a 19-year-old Syrian man was convicted for assault after lashing out with his belt at an Israeli man wearing a Jewish kippa skullcap while shouting “yahudi”, Jew in Arabic.