• Germany's news in English

Olympians urge Merkel to attend Sochi 2014

The Local · 17 Dec 2013, 10:47

Published: 17 Dec 2013 10:47 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"If Gauck isn't coming, Chancellor Merkel must. It's a measure of regard for the athletes," Olympic discus champion Robert Harting told Bild newspaper. "Politicians often like to use the sporting arena for their own interests. So, turning that around, they should do something for us."

Harting, who was named German sportsman of the year on Sunday night, used the ceremony to attack Gauck’s decision saying it sent the wrong signal. “When Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the training camp of the national football team, it has strong symbolism. It is an important event for the people. And when Joachim Gauck doesn’t come, that is also a sign.”

The 29-year-old’s comments were echoed by other sports stars.

Fellow Olympian Britta Heidemann, who won a silver medal for fencing at London 2012, said: "We know from the history of the Olympic Games that boycotts do not achieve anything on a political level. International understanding can only be achieved when politicians seek out direct negotiations."

Gymnast Fabian Hambüchen agreed. "The presence of politicians like Angela Merkel is recognition of our achievements. I think we've earned that,” he said.

German president Joachim Gauck announced earlier this month that he would not be going to Russia for the games. Though he did not explicitly state his reasons, it is widely believed the move is in protest against human rights abuses in Russia – and in particular a law banning "pro-homosexual propaganda."

Despite his decision not to attend the event, Gauck has reportedly been planning a visit to Russia for months. "Gauck would like to use his first visit to Russia to address a number of issues in a respectful manner," SPD foreign policy spokesman, Rolf Mützenich told news magazine Focus, adding, "Such a thing isn't possible in Sochi."  

German media reports claimed Merkel was annoyed not to have been told of Gauck's intention in advance. The chancellor's spokesperson said: "The president's decision has been noted and will not be commented upon."

Meanwhile, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio on Sunday that neither he nor President Francois Hollande would be at the event.

With her closest neighbours choosing to stay home and her president making a stance, speculation is rife over whether or not the German chancellor will travel to the games which start on February 7th 2014.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd