The CEO of the Germany Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) spoke to DW about a range of issues ahead of the Games. Michael Vesper said progress is being made in the battle against doping.
DW: What is the state of German sports as we head into the 2016 Olympic Games?
Michael Vesper: We are taking 450 athletes to Rio de Janeiro. In addition there are more than 300 members of support staff, so it's a very big team heading to Rio de Janeiro. We have both female and male athletes in almost all of the sports. And of course, we hope that we will do well.
The DSOB has raised its expectations in terms of winning medals and appearances in finals in team sports. Is this a sign of optimism?
Yes, we are quite confident. But we also know that in sports, not everything can be calculated in advance. There can be disappointments, but there can also be pleasant surprises. We hope we will do at least as well as we did in London, where we won 44 medals. Maybe we can even win a medal or two more, but things could also go the other way.
In the past, there has also been criticism of the lofty targets set out by the DOSB - from athletes in particular. So how useful are such targets?
We have not set out any targets this time. We held discussions with the sports associations after the London Games, where we identified what we could expect in a best- and worst-case scenario. Based upon this we developed a target range in which 71 medals is the maximum and 42 the minimum. However, this includes sports in which we did not qualify meaning this range should be adjusted. But in the end this is simply playing with numbers. We know that all of the athletes will do their best, but we are also sure that we won't end up at the top or bottom of that range, more likely somewhere in the middle.
Some of the top athletes have recently criticized the fact that anti-doping rules are applied in different ways in different parts of the world. Is there any chance that there will be a level playing field in Rio?
The fight against doping is one you cannot win overnight. It is a process. It has to be further developed, and has always been evolving. I am optimistic that we will be better in terms of the checks in Rio than we were in London, where there was already an improvement compared to Beijing. The people involved in checking the athletes and combating doping are closing in on those who dope or develop the doping substances. All of the samples taken in Rio will be frozen for 10 years, so that improved methods of analysis which are developed later can be used, possibly leading to the withdrawal of Olympic achievements.
The improved methods of analysis conducted years after the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 London Olympics resulted in numerous athletes being founded guilty of doping. Are such retests the most effective means at the disposal of international sports officials?
What works, is deterrence. What works is for an athlete who cheats having to fear being caught and then being banned from competition. This is the most important tool in the fight against doping. The retests are part of this deterrence and are another reason for those open to doping to worry about being caught.
The people of Rio de Janeiro are very enthusiastic about sports, but the city is also grappling with major problems, such as an overloaded infrastructure, financial burden, the Zika virus and not least the security concerns. What are your expectations for these Olympic Games, and what do you expect from the hosts?
We expect our hosts to create the conditions for a really upbeat, carefree Games. This includes providing efficient security. The Brazilian authorities have reassured the teams, the IOC and all of those taking part about this. I have no reason to doubt them. I do hope that the security measures are not so restrictive that they will remove any joy or spontaneity. We also take the Zika virus very seriously, but we have taken precautions aimed at providing our athletes with the best protection possible. For example, by providing them with the appropriate anti-mosquito agents and clothing. The Brazilian authorities have drained the pools of water where mosquitoes spend the winter and according to our information, the mosquitoes are not as active in winter as they are in summer.
What does your gut feeling tell you about how many medals Germany will win in Rio?
I hope as many as possible, hopefully at least as many as in London. There, 11 of our athletes won gold. But I won't make a prediction. I don't want to place any limit on the creativity and ambition of our athletes.
Michael Vesper, 64, is CEO of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB). The Green politician will be Germany's chef de mission in Rio de Janeiro, a post he also held at the London Summer Games in 2012 and the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. He is close confidant of German International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
This interview was conducted by Joscha Weber.