Olympians bemoan German sports funding | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 11.08.2012
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Olympians bemoan German sports funding

Germany's performance fell short of expectations at the 2012 London Olympics. Now some medal winners are criticizing the German sports funding system - and they're not alone.

Robert Harting is known for speaking his mind. And since he just won gold in the discus at the London 2012 Olympics, people are willing to listen to him. He said he wouldn't be able to make a living from his sport and was looking for sponsors. In comparison with other nations, Germany is not well-known for funding sports - a point he made clear.

"Sports funding is a huge area that needs to be worked on," he said.

Robert Harting (Karin Jäger)

Robert Harting is known for speaking his mind

Track cyclist Maximilian Levy took advantage of the moment after he won silver and bronze medals to call for fundamental changes to the German sports system, as did fencer Imke Duplitzer and gold-medal-winning canoeist Sebastian Brendel.

Even the competitive sports director for the German Swimming Association, Lutz Buschkow, said there were many reasons for German swimmers' poor performances.

"We're short of qualified youth coaches and top trainers," he said, adding that, as a profession, trainers were not compensated as well as the Swimming Association would like to see in order to recruit a large number of well-qualified trainers.

Paid to practice

As always, it's a matter of money. Athletes earn an average of 1,919 euros ($2,360) per month for a 60-hour work week, according to a study done two years ago by the German Sports University Cologne.

Germany's Interior Ministry, which is also responsible for sports, spends about 130 million euros annually to fund sports, and another 30 million euros comes from Defense Ministry spending on some 800 solider-athletes.

Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that while he expects a return on the investment his ministry makes to fund sports and athletes, sports also represent a major element in how people identify with their country and society.

2012 Summer Olympics medals (dpa)

Germany has fallen far short of its medal goals in London

"If we can make a contribution to this, then we are glad to do so," he said. "But we do still have expectations. We're not doing it out of compassion - we're talking about sports. That means we want to see performance."

Sharing soccer's success

Customs offices and the police also support the athletes in their ranks. This is also true of private organizations like the German Sports Aid Foundation, which offers an elite athletic program with a monthly stipend of 1,500 euros. It cooperates with major corporations including Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa and Deutsche Telekom.

Michael Illgner, a foundation board member, said he expects a deal with the German Soccer League that began in 2008, and was recently extended to 2016, to bring more money to the foundation by raising the profile of other sports through joint sponsors.

Looking beyond Germany's borders, Illgner said he examined how Great Britain spent years analyzing how it could turn its sports funding into medals.

"We may have a different culture here in our country," he said. "You have to try to keep developing and learning new things. The British have a very clear system. I think there are some individual aspects to take from that."

Hosting the Games

The German Olympic Sports Confederation announced a major analysis of how funding is spent. Whatever the results of the analysis show, Illgner said the best way to promote sports funding is to host the Games in your own country.

"We fully stand behind the notion that the Olympic idea has to return to Germany," he said. "That would really help us and give a big push to Olympic sports and the follow-on effect would be a big push for the social-political importance of sports."

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