A spontaneous protest broke out among cyclists following the cancellation of a Frankfurt bike race in the wake of a terrorist threat. It’s a good sign, says DW sports reporter Joscha Weber.
It has long been a fact that terrorists use the Internet to organize themselves. What's new, is that civil opposition to terrorism can also take shape within a matter of hours, as was the case on social networking sites after authorities cancelled the Eschborn-Frankfurt City bike race.
A brisk discussion developed on Twitter and Facebook, with disappointed and defiant reactions from both participants and fans. The one common thread in the messages is that sporting events should not be held hostage by terrorists.
The cycling community also showed that it is not afraid to take action in a spontaneously organized protest: a group of around 700 cyclists met at the starting location despite the cancellation of the event. They then cycled part of the route together in what was a remarkable act of courage. They also cycled past the apartment in Oberursel where, the day before, police found a bomb, munitions, chemicals and firearms. "We will not be defeated," said one cyclist. It was a strong statement against terrorism, and in support of freedom.
Not just cycling was targeted
This is about much more than a bike race. It's about the achievements of a democratic civil society. People in modern democracies often take it for granted that they can pursue leisure activities without fear of violence, or restrictions on their movement. But in order for things to remain this way, society needs a security system that works, as well as courageous citizens. Both were present in the case of this foiled attack in Frankfurt. The cyclists in Eschborn demonstrated their courage - they are not unlike the people who took to the streets of Paris following the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office.
But it was also right for officials to call off the race. Given that we don't yet know whether the suspected terrorist couple was acting alone, there was no other choice to be made. Nobody wants a repeat of the Boston Marathon disaster in 2013. That large sporting events with their thousands of spectators are vulnerable is a fact that cannot be pushed aside. That makes it even more important to protect such events as well we can.
The universal language
Sport is special in that it brings people together, wakes common emotions, and allows for a cultural exchange. Sport is a universal language that everyone understands. That's the message coming out of Eschborn and Frankfurt.