It's the Olympics and Germany wins: nothing. Not a completely absurd thought, because the massive downward trend in German top-class sport has long since assumed threatening proportions from the point of view of athletes and officials.
The disastrous World Cup failure of the national football teams for men and women is just one striking example. No medal at the World Championships in Athletics, only one bronze in the pool at the World Swimming Championships. And in the middle of the discussion about the sense and nonsense of an Olympic application for 2036, the financial situation for the technical and training science elite at the FES and IAT institutes comes to a head in a menacing manner due to the threat of financial cuts.
"It makes me angry that sport doesn't have the same status in society," said canoe Olympic champion Ronald Rauhe at a press conference of the Institute for Research and Development of Sports Equipment (FES) and the Institute for Applied Training Science (IAT). They should save four million euros in 2024, 19 percent of the budget. Experts fear that this will certainly cost further sporting successes.
"If we don't have the finances and opportunities, it will be difficult," warned four-time Olympic bobsleigh champion Francesco Friedrich. Friedrich emphasized that he would not have won four gold medals in 2018 and 2022 without the expertise of the FES. "It's about hundredths," said the 33-year-old. Not only do he get them out on the train, but also the scientists from the FES on his bobsled.
Exodus away from the arenas
It was said that know-how, especially in the technically complicated disciplines with sports equipment, was in danger of being lost. Highly qualified employees could be poached by international competition. An exodus away from the arenas - and in the immediate preparation for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
In the multi-storey FES complex in an industrial area in East Berlin, warnings of a medal ebb were echoing insistently. With a broad alliance of athletes, scientists and politicians, the institutes still want to avert the monetary cuts. Frank Ullrich, as chairman of the Bundestag Sports Committee, gave hope. Overall, German sport is about ten percent. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) has estimated 276 million euros instead of 303 million euros.
"I will also do my utmost to ensure that our householders avoid these cuts," SPD politician Ullrich said at least once about the FES and IAT budget and reported on talks that had already been held. The government also indicated a willingness to compromise. "The Federal Ministry of the Interior and Homeland (BMI) is keen to lay the foundation for top performances in the coming year as well - not only because of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games. That is why we are currently coordinating additional solutions in the area of sports funding", it said at the request of the German Press Agency.
Relative tones from the ministry
The ministry responsible for sport is putting things into perspective anyway. The plans for Paris are not affected at all. "The training measures before the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in Paris are part of the annual planning of the Olympic federations for 2024, for which the funds have remained the same compared to 2023."
But Rauhe and Friedrich see another problem. Even with the financial status quo, the performance level can hardly be maintained. The competition is constantly working on innovative solutions. An initiative for sport as the driving force behind positive social development is the great ideal.
If you believe the chairman of the board of the joint FES/IAT association, Martin Engelhardt, the overall societal acknowledgment without investments in top-class sport is exorbitantly high. "Our country, our youth needs role models. They are athletes, that's what society orients itself on," said the head of the German Triathlon Union. As a doctor, he experiences what it means to reduce physical activity - especially because of the billions in health care costs. The deletions would also have dramatic consequences for parasport - inclusion would be prevented even more.
"We're Still Talking Ourselves Down"
For Engelhardt, the cuts are also an indication that politicians do not want the Olympic Games in Germany. For Hanns Michael Hölz, President of the German Snowboard Association, this is a fatal signal: the sport must be used as a positive feature in international competition. "We're still talking down. Then the loop goes down too," he said. In view of the general atmosphere, it is no wonder that the new javelin world champion Neeraj Chopra does not come from Germany but from India. The head of the German Athletics Association, Jürgen Kessing, recently warned at the World Championships in Budapest that the low point in German sport was not to be expected until next year.