Germany tries to clobber first Ultimate Fighting event

Continental Europe's first taste of "Ultimate Fighting," in which men batter each other with bare fists and feet, has sparked a political row this week as officials sought to ban under-18s from watching.

Germany tries to clobber first Ultimate Fighting event
Photo: DPA

After losing a battle to ban the event – planned for June 13 – officials from the western German city of Cologne were holding a crisis meeting with promoters in a bid to limit attendance of the event to adults.

The controversial sport – which former US presidential candidate John McCain once described as “human cock-fighting” – is hoping to build on successful events in Britain and Ireland by staging a 12-bout fight-night in Germany.

According to the website of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), participants in Cologne will include Wanderlei Silva (“the Axe Murderer”), Ben Saunders (“Killa B”) and Marcus Davis (“The Irish Hand Grenade”).

UFC bouts are staged in an octagonal cage, rather than a ring, and the only rules are that fighter may not gouge each other’s eyes, attack the groin area or bite.

During the five five-minute rounds, attacks continue even when fighters are on the floor with repeated bare-knuckle blows to the head until the referee intervenes or one of the participants throws in the towel.

It is considered the largest mixed martial arts franchise in the world with growing popularity thanks to television.

But Armin Laschet, youth minister from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the event is taking place, dismissed it as a “glorification of violence.”

“Youth protection agencies, schools and local authorities are doing everything they can to fight against glorifying violence and here people are making money out of violence,” Laschet said in an interview with daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The issue of glorifying violence is especially sensitive in Germany, where politicians are drawing up tighter gun control laws in the wake of a bloodbath in March when 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer shot 15 people and then himself.

There have also been calls to ban violent video games played frequently by Kretschmer.

But UFC supporters say that rather than glorifying violence, the sport is a highly skilful blend of martial arts, including karate, sumo wrestling, taekwondo, judo and jiu-jitsu.

“Supervisors who up until now have not come across UFC will see that our fighters are exemplary and intelligent athletes,” Dana White, the body’s president, said in a statement, adding that in 16 years and over 1,000 bouts, the worst injury has been a broken arm.

Despite the criticism over the event, Cologne officials say they are powerless to prevent its staging in the 20,000-seat stadium.

“I am convinced that the event can not be legally forbidden,” Cologne’s Mayor Manfred Wolf told daily Bild.

The event does not affect the safety or security of the town and therefore no permit is required.

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Schools around Germany reopen as Covid numbers sink

As coronavirus figures continue to fall around Germany, several states are again opening schools in full force. Here’s where - and when - in-person classes are resuming again.

Schools around Germany reopen as Covid numbers sink
Elementary shcool pupils in Hanover returned to the classroom on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

On Monday, the countrywide 7-day incidence dropped to 35.1 per 100,000 residents, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The RKI reported 1,978 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 2,682 a week before. 

In light of the lower numbers, many states have decided to end distance learning and alternating classes, and to return to regular classroom operations.

This marks the first time in several months – in some cases since November – that primary and secondary pupils have been able to return to full instruction.

However, mandatory face masks and coronavirus tests at least twice a week still apply to all pupils.

Where and when are schools reopening?

Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia is reopening schools with face-to-face instruction across the board on Monday.

Lower Saxony, Saarland and Hamburg are also returning to normal operation across class levels in most state regions. 

In Brandenburg, this initially applies only to elementary schools. The only exception is the city of Brandenburg/Havel, where the numbers are still considered to be too high. In a week’s time, the secondary schools are to follow suit. 

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the state with the lowest 7-day incidence nationwide (14.9 as of Monday), students began returning to classes on Thursday. 

Berlin, on the other hand, plans to stick with the alternating classes – where different groups of students attend on different days – until the summer vacations, which begin June 24th.

The capital’s mayor Michael Müller (SPD) recently pointed out that the incidence among students in the capital was higher than the average. 

Rhineland-Palatinate is also taking a cautious approach. Following the end of school holidays in a week, pupils will have two more weeks of rotating classes before everyone returns for face-to-face instruction.

From June 7th in Bavaria, if the 7-day incidence remains stable below 50, face-to-face teaching is planned everywhere. Previously this was only the case at elementary schools and some special schools. 

In Baden-Württemberg, elementary schools are to return to face-to-face instruction if the 7-day incidences remain stable between 50 and 100. 

From June 11th, this is also to apply to all students in grade five and above who are currently still in alternating instruction.

What’s the reaction?

Not everyone is happy with the way schools are reopening. On Monday the Federal Parents’ Council criticised the different approaches taken by the states. 

“It’s like it has been since the outbreak of the pandemic: each state does what it wants,” complained chairwoman Sabrina Wetzel in a statement. “We demand a uniform line on openings as well.”

For parents, the different regulations from state to state are difficult to understand, she said, adding that “it’s also unfair to the children”.

READ ALSO: German teachers call for uniform Covid rules in schools nationwide