What is Germany’s Olympic problem?

Tom Bristow
Tom Bristow - [email protected]
What is Germany’s Olympic problem?

German sporting figures reacted with surprise after Bavarians voted against a proposal for Munich to bid for the Winter Olympics in 2022. Has the country fallen out of love with sport or was it a rejection of the Olympic establishment?


The failure of Munich's Olympic bid in a referendum on Sunday was the fifth time in a little over 20 years that an attempt by Germany to host the Olympics has failed. 

For much of the German media, the rejection in Munich was about the bad perception of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the country rather than a dislike of winter sports or hosting sporting events.

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung said the decision did not mean Germans had lost their passion for sport. The problem, it said, is that the Olympics no longer belong to the sportsmen and women competing but to the IOC.

For the Stuggarter Zeitung the rejection was a personal defeat for the newly-appointed German head of the IOC, Thomas Bach.

It wrote: “We’re doing well, even without the Olympics – that is the message coming from Bavaria. This attitude is justifiable but it is no blueprint for the whole of Germany.”

President of the International Ski Federation and IOC member Gian-Franco Kasper said the decision was a “bad sign” and showed German mistrust in the Olympic organization.

“The negative headlines about Sochi and Qatar didn’t help,” the Swiss ski boss said. “As soon as people hear ‘Olympics’ they get worried.”

Ludwig Hartmann, who helped lead the no campaign in Bavaria, said: “The IOC is the loser not sport in Germany.”

Bavarian-based newspaper the Süddeutsche Zeitung argued Munich would not have benefited from the Winter Games in the same way as London did from the summer version.

“In the 2012 games in the British capital the majority of inhabitants were prepared to deal with the inconvenience,” the paper said.

It added that unlike London which could bask in the glory of being the “capital of the world” for the whole summer, Munich would have had just a few weeks to shine and then the “circus” would have passed. “People in Munich prefer to keep the mountains...for themselves,” it said.

Sporting figures also joined the debate. Franz Beckenbauer, Germany’s greatest footballer, said Bavaria had blown a “great chance” by rejecting the Olympics.

Skier and German Olympic winner Maria Höfl-Riesch also said it was a missed opportunity and described the vote as “disastrous” fearing it would lead Germany to not apply for any Olympic Games or Winter Games in the future.

Director of the German Ski Association Wolfgang Maier also said it would put Germany off applying for summer Olympics.

Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who is responsible for sport, said the whole country would have profited from the games.

And in Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit said the decision was a blow for Olympics in Germany. The capital has been touted a potential candidate for a summer Olympics having not hosted it since 1936.

But Berlin’s Tagesspiegel encouraged the capital to still apply for the Olympic Games in the future and said Munich's rejection could be a chance for Berlin to bid and help its reputation abroad. "The city doesn’t survive on industry or the internet. It survives on its reputation,“ the paper said.

Other cities are also seizing on Munich’s rejection. Stockholm has put itself forward for the 2022 event but the favourites are Oslo, Beijing and Krakow.

It is the fifth time in a little over 20 years that a German bid to host the Winter or Summer Olympics has failed. Berchtesgaden did not get past the first round of bidding for the Winter Games in 1992, Berlin fell in the second round to host the Olympics in 2000, while Leipzig failed in a bid for the 2012 games and Munich lost the 2018 Winter Games to Pyongyang in South Korea.

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