As the Beijing Olympics ended on Sunday, Aug. 24, German officials said they were pleased with the overall result of their athletes. They want to focus on core sports to get more medals in 2012.
German hockey players were the last to cheer after winning gold on Saturday
Members of the German Olympic Sports Federation (DOSB) seemed to have forgotten that they'd originally set a goal of at least bringing home as many medal as they did during the 2004 Athens Olympics -- 49 in total.
While German athletes actually topped the number of gold medals -- winning 16 compared to 13 four years ago -- they only got 41 medals in China, including 10 silver and 15 bronze medals. This leaves Germany in fifth place in the medal count, trailing China, the US, Russia and Britain.
"In total, our appearance in Beijing and our sports results are more than satisfactory," said DOSB's director general, Michael Vesper, at a concluding press conference in the Chinese capital on Sunday.
DOSB officials also praised the fact that German athletes had won gold in 12 disciplines as opposed to eight in 2004. In addition to the medals, 139 athletes also ended up on ranks 4 through 10.
International medal race
The Chinese got to celebrate the most
Despite that, German sports officials are bound to have their work cut out for them if they want to shine at the 2012 London Olympics: Since 1992, the number of medals for Germany has been steadily declining.
DOSB President Thomas Bach, who is also the vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that more and more countries had discovered sports successes as a way to improve their images internationally and were aggressively sponsoring athletes to bring home medals. While 74 nations had athletes climb the winners' podiums in Athens, that number rose to 85 in Beijing.
"It's become very obvious here that more resources than ever are funnelled into competitive sports," Bach said.
Vesper added that Germany had to think about how it should react.
"We need a societal debate on how much competitive sports are worth to us," he said, adding that the state and the business world had to work together on this.
Another worrying trend is Germany's success in secondary sports that only get media attention every four years at the Olympics, including judo, weight-lifting, triathlon or modern pentathlon.
Britta Steffen got a champion's welcome in Berlin this week
In star sports, such as swimming, Britta Steffen managed to prevent a complete German disaster by winning gold twice. Christina Obergfoell's bronze medal in javelin throw was the only glimpse of German success in track-and-fields, leading officials to call for a doubling of funds for the Olympic core sport. Financial awards, which have been given to athletes in the past, will now be given to sports associations to help them pay for their work.
Germans didn't fare much better in ball games, where the Germans only got gold in hockey against Spain.
But the DOSB's Vesper said that the successes and shortcomings won't be mulled on for too long.
"The work for London 2012 begins on Monday," he said.