Which sport does your country represent
"Germany, your sport"
The title of my lecture "Germany, your sport" sounds like a sigh, and basically it is. Sport in Germany has changed dramatically in the last 30 years: high-performance sport with an enormous compression of performance and popular sport with penetration of all active milieus in our society. What sports journalists and also association representatives perceive of it are primarily the quantitative changes, i.e. the numbers that show increases, improvements, increases and decreases; for them it's about more and more, better and better, more sustainable. However, they tend not to take notice of the qualitative change. The reason for this is that they are too close to current developments. They change in the same way that sport changes; they run alongside him and therefore cannot perceive any noticeable differences from earlier times. You have always considered sport to be great and the most important thing or minor thing in the world - now the majority of the population sees it that way and encourages journalists and association representatives in their view of the greatness and importance of sport. In their perception from the side, with which they develop themselves, it looks as if the meaning of sport in our society has not changed at all.
Precisely this assessment is wrong, and I believe that there are consequences. In making this assessment, something was overlooked. Our society has developed with tremendous dynamism over the past 30 years. It has transformed itself from the ground up: from a largely solidarity-based society with common values, which was formed in the post-war period and then during the Cold War, to a society of inequality. I think that can be expressed so dramatically. Since the 1980s, inequality has been increasing in our society (not only in ours, but also in other countries with industrial and financial capitalism) and the social classes are increasingly tearing apart.
The French sociologist Pierre Rosanvallon sums up the dynamics in his new book ("La Société des égaux") on the society of like and unequal. In a recently published interview in "Liberation" he says that a new society has emerged in the last few decades. The upper and middle classes have largely become estranged from one another. The lower class is more or less left behind and, as cruel as it is to say, no chance.
In an article that just appeared this weekend in the "Financial Times Deutschland", the philosopher Julian Nida-Rümelin writes that the same respect for everyone that previously distinguished German society has disappeared. German unification did not stop this process; On the contrary, it accelerated it, inasmuch as a whole series of devaluation processes that affected not only East German but also West German society were set in motion. If you want to exaggerate the point, you can say that social recognition today is earned through economic capital, influence and education. Anyone who wants to be socially valid in our country has to gain recognition in all three areas in some way.
Now one can ask oneself what all this has to do with sport. I think a lot. The changes that are taking place in society and in sport do not happen, as was the case in the past, in parallel or in interaction with one another, but there are non-simultaneous, different developments between them. Only a very small segment of sport, namely top-class sport, especially football - one can perhaps quote a few other sports, but with very few staff - have been swept away by these changes. The overwhelming majority of athletes remain excluded; this is a new development. In the past, the values that were valid in sport applied across society: decency, the much-cited "German virtues" such as neatness, efficiency, etc.
The relative homogeneity of sport and society has been broken. What is indicated by this break is this: The role that sport plays in society has fundamentally changed. Sport no longer represents society; he no longer demonstrates social values. That was different once. This means that one of the important sources of sport values has become unusable for our society, and a very important motivation for athletes, namely to be representatives of their nation, has dried up. The athletes have to find a new place in society and other values.
That might sound a bit abstract; I want to substantiate this thought with reference to the GDR sport. Ironically, the GDR was, as it were, the model generator for West German sport for decades. The success of GDR sport had shaken the model of top-class sport in the western part of Germany. First of all I have to present this model briefly and then I come to the shock that I mentioned.
What was true until about the 60s and 70s was a thought that Coubertin had raised, namely that athletes formed something like a new elite - Coubertin had expressed this more pathetically 100 years ago - a 'new aristocracy'. I could now elaborate on this thought in detail; but if I get to the point, it means that for society up until the 1960s and 1970s, sport was a field of activity for the sovereign individual. I believe that this interpretation was absolutely correct and can be substantiated with striking, impressive examples. At a time when the athletic body was 'discovered', sport made an important, perhaps even decisive, contribution to modernization. In the 1920s, and then after the war in the 1960s and 1970s, it became an expression of a new lifestyle, an expression of efficiency, decency and camaraderie.
Top sport was a matter of individuals - this was the credo of the sports movement in Germany and in comparable western countries. The athletes could, however, be politically co-opted; one saw this in National Socialism. But in their own view, which is quite legitimate, they fought for themselves, for their higher fame, for their person, for their own person. In a "society of individuals", as Norbert Elias calls it, top-class sport offered a convincing model for developing one's own person. Sport led to an aestheticization of life, of youthfulness, and connected with this was the profession (not the profession as sport, but the profession in a professional world) through which the athletes could achieve success in civil society.
This model, which I call the "aestheticization of life", applied to all classes for many years. The members of all classes wanted to make their lives somehow beautiful, to express their individuality in a convincing way. There are enough cases in which this harmony actually came about, that is, successful athletes were active in respected professions. But there were also clear warning signals: the more demanding top-level sport became, the more difficult it became to bring sport and work together. A deep involvement in sport threatened the planning and preparation of a professional career. This has always been known, and there have been plenty of cases in which people have slipped. And even more: the unconditional desire for success weakened the moral resistance to fraud. People no longer want to know that, but the study by the Berlin and Münster research groups on doping in Germany will show this in detail. One should not pretend doping is a new issue; I got to know this during my own competitions with friends - two of them set world records - in the 1960s.
The desire to beautify one's own life, for size and meaning, has (and still is) pushed aside moral concerns. The model long withstood the pressures that were placed on this lifestyle. It gave a very good answer to the question an athlete asks himself when he chooses to play sport: What can I expect from sport? Namely: fame, importance, exaltation, embellishment of my existence and recognition as a sovereign subject and my individual life. This was true until the 1970s.
Now I come to the GDR. Here sport was built into the political system as a functional part. It was given a social, domestic and - much more perceived - foreign policy significance. There was the slogan of "diplomats in tracksuits", an invention by Ulbricht which, unfortunately, has to be said, was extremely successful. The individualistic model of the West was contrasted with a collectivist model. First of all, this meant a significant upgrade of the sport. Sport was seen as a task for all citizens. Every athletically gifted person should fulfill this task. Hence the mass research for talented athletes in childhood. Even the child had to contribute to the common, to the state. A socialist moral was argued: The athlete is obliged to use his strength for his country, he is obliged to represent. The citizens of the country, in turn, are also obliged to support the athletes through their own work, because it was an extremely cost-intensive system.
How this system could work became clear to me at an event in Suhl this spring. This event was titled "Sports Traitor"; It was about the fact that the ski jumping world champion Hans-Georg Aschenbach, formerly the idol of this area, Olympic champion in Innsbruck, then studied medicine and medicine with the rank of lieutenant colonel of the NVA and there with sports tasks, had fled to the West in 1988. At that time he was stripped of his honorary citizenship in Suhl. That spring he came back to his hometown to justify himself to the people he had apparently disappointed. It turned out to be a dramatic event that lasted over three hours; Deutschlandfunk documented them with a "Long Night" on August 13th.
The decisive accusation of the Suhlers against Aschenbach was - that was an extremely exciting matter for me as a West German - "You achieved sporting successes at our expense, and you studied medicine at our expense, and then you left us." Aschenbach said: "No, I achieved my sporting success myself. I trained, I jumped, I studied, and that was exhausting enough. You have nothing to do with it." - Aschenbach obviously has a completely different idea of sport, definitely one that was common in the West: Society has to promote the talents of its members, that is its task. The athlete, for his part, has no task to perform for the collective - developing his abilities is not a service to society. Aschenbach therefore opposed his opponents in Suhl with a model that does not recognize the contributions of the collective. A number of listeners who attacked him could not at all make this understandable. As in the GDR era, they still thought that success in sport was not an individual achievement. I was reminded of Bert Brecht's "radio tutorial" "The Ocean Flight", which portrays Charles Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic not as a heroic deed of an individual, but as a collective achievement. Lindbergh has no name of his own in the play; it is introduced as the anonymous "Derundder" and appears in the plural as "the fliers". After his heroic flight, the aviators say: "Please carry me / To a dark shed that / No one can see my / Natural weakness. / But report to my comrades in the Ryan factory in San Diego / That their work was good. / Our engine has held out / Your work was flawless. "
Here the collective is celebrated; there is no sovereign individual here. The morality of the state and the collective is of a higher value than that of the individual subject; the values of sport are also subordinated to it.
On the basis of this model, doping appears to be completely unproblematic: sport has no right of its own to oppose the state. It is just not a power of its own. It is obvious that such an attitude could not be easily removed from the minds, from the mentality of coaches from the GDR, if they were then put into the service of the unified German sport. Especially since they were then able to observe doping practices in the West and, if they were integrated into the Western sports system, were often encouraged to participate with their know-how. The answer to the question of what personal gain the individual athlete could get from his sport is very sobering for the GDR: He or she was nothing more than the visible part of the working collective and the caring state - on the one hand, a pathetically inflated position in indebted to the public, on the other hand to the collective and the state.
In view of the enormous success of the GDR athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, which shockingly demonstrated the GDR's sporting superiority over the organizer, the Federal Republic of Germany, the individualistic, liberal constitution of West German sport was emphasized, but the GDR model in three crucial moves included.
First: athletes were seen as representatives of the German state and sporting successes as indicators of the state's performance. Politically, that was extremely short-sighted, especially in relation to its own citizens. Nobody in the Federal Republic believed that the state organization of the GDR was more efficient than that of their own country, simply because the athletes won so many gold medals. Modern states do not show their power and their ability to act through gestures of representation, i.e. not by the fact that a president lives in a baroque palace and drives up in a golden carriage or the like, not through military parades with terrifying equipment, not even by the fact that their athletes win all the toboggan medals. How unimportant such gestures are for the actual performance of a state, its economy, its financial and educational system, can be seen from the fact that emerging democratic states such as India are passionate about cricket - all traffic in Delhi comes to a standstill when a final is about to begin -, but with its 1.2 billion inhabitants, for example, won only one medal at the Olympic Games in Sydney, a bronze medal in clay pigeon shooting. China, with its authoritarian state communist constitution, is completely unsuitable as a counterexample. The efficiency of a modern democratic state can be seen in other areas: in the ability to disseminate and use new technologies, in the quality of financial services, in the possibility of opening up educational opportunities, adapting health and social systems to needs, enabling the greatest possible freedom of movement etc. But the sports press and politics largely pushed through the GDR concept in the Federal Republic after 1972; in fact, the successful representation of the state through sport was recognized as an overarching societal value. This created a common value for all of top-class Olympic sport, but one that was definitely questionable.
The second trait, closely related to the first point, was the demand on the state: it was required to take on the role of the main sponsor of top-class sport, especially in the Olympic disciplines. School sports, for example, should be used to spot talent and provide support for the sports associations. This request has hardly ever been realized, but the demand had institutional consequences. The Federal Institute for Sports Science was founded and the Federal Committee for Competitive Sports was set up as a transmission belt between sports science, athletes, associations and science. Fortunately, the Federal Institute in Cologne also made other research possible in addition to promoting competitive sports; I myself benefited from his support for a four-year study on the living conditions of top athletes. Some of the considerations that I bring to you here are based on the results of this research. In addition, a sports promotion company for the German Armed Forces was established. Their support from the Ministry of Defense can no longer be justified with the so-called subsidiarity principle of sport in Germany, with the principle that the state makes funds available to sport if it itself, for example the DOSB, takes the initiative and has its own financial resources begins. The state is still more or less required to give generous support to top-class sport. But it is also clear that this request overtaxes him - if only because this is not his job.
Third takeover: In some institutions and a number of people the desire became very strong to strengthen individualistic sport against collectivistic one and to put this support above the rules of sport. Now we're back to doping. So there is also this type of doping that wanted to come to the aid of the autonomous individual. I saw some of it myself, in the run-up to the 1976 Montreal Games; it shocked me very much because I thought that this was not possible with us. I saw this intervention as a kind of self-authorization of the individualistically understood sport, which should show the superiority of the western sporting conception over the GDR or at least should prevent it from falling too far behind. So there is one, one could put it, fraud out of the love of sport - but it remains fraud.
After the collapse of the GDR, there is no longer any superiority to be proven in German sport. The East German model is dead, all attempts to dismantle parts of it and weld them into your own model must be viewed as failed. But is there even a new German or all-German model of its own? - no And that's the problem I'm talking about here. The representation model no longer works. The national soccer team, which is extremely important for the feeling of being German, for national emotionality, does not function in the sense of a representation model. I suppose another model applies here, which is more in the area of show sports. National representation is always dependent on internal cohesion in society, and it is precisely this internal cohesion that no longer exists in the society that has now formed. Only football is able to keep the parts of our society that are diverging together reasonably well. Otherwise, the picture is completely different: The upper social classes have a different sporting orientation than the middle and especially the lower. You are much more interested in international than national, in golf tournaments, yachting, equestrian sports, in tennis social events. Young people of the upper middle classes are internationally organized and have left the national framework with their interests in sports and other events (clubs, concerts, etc.) - they are networked around the world and consider national representation to be anachronistic.
There is also a serious change in attitudes: the ideal of the sovereign individual as a leader and doer, as head boss and Basta-Chancellor and so on has become implausible, actually in all areas of society, from the auto industry to politics to show business. It cannot be ruled out that they still exist; the business press is full of the Ackermanns, Winterkorns, Obermanns - but they are employees; In the background, major shareholders, not very lifelike figures, pull the strings. We no longer have the values of the old society of dignitaries. The great slogan that Kennedy brought up and that you all know: "Don't ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" does not apply to top-class sport. There is no point in using him to expect top athletes to show commitment to their nation. The first question that top athletes ask themselves today, as in the past, is: What can I expect from sport? And that's right. Society today is such that intelligent young people with a high level of ability and the ability to manage themselves can only find their place in society if they pursue a demanding job. They will not find a happy place in society if they are no more than former top athletes.
Most athletes know that too - but they don't know how to cope with this double requirement of combining sport and work or sport and studies. If they fail to do this, they may be falling far below their social capabilities. This lagging behind is perceived much more sharply today than it used to be. If a former, famous football player used to have a corner bar, then today you find it very funny and the bar with the yellowed soccer hero in it is the subject of strong old sayings ("Thank you" is the name of the bar from "Ente" Lippens). Today it is unthinkable that someone who has not found a professional connection after great sporting success sits around somewhere and talks about his old successes. But that's exactly what happens all the time.
The problem I am talking about is top athletes who have no chance of making wealth through sport. They are most of our top athletes. Perhaps they are not threatened by poverty in old age, but by a poverty of prestige that sets in with the distance from their successes. Only where there is a professional field with great earning opportunities, such as in football, does this problem occur less. It also occurs there, but not among the top staff. Here you can perhaps see the beginnings of a new model, namely the athlete in the role of the show star. We see this in some top footballers who are very good at building post-sports careers on the foundations of their sporting fame. With them, however, the sport begins to dissolve and to merge at the edges with the entertainment. This development is not one that can absolutely be approved from the point of view of sport. It doesn't necessarily reward the most successful in the sport; it punishes the more sensitive top talent. As an example that I will not go into now, I mention Franziska van Almsick, who managed to become a party girl with various uses; and on the other hand Britta Steffen, who is much more successful, multiple Olympic champion, but who has to struggle to justify herself if, after her bitter defeat at the World Swimming Championships, she only has the desire to retire home immediately. In show sports we are even less immune to doping. It even seems to be a requirement of the show that, like the Tour de France, the athletes be doped. The new circuit for 2012 has more steep climbs than in the days of cycling pharmacies.
Under the conditions of the Federal Republic of Germany, there is no convincing model that highly talented young people should opt for top-class sport, as bitter as the finding is. The state can do little here. He doesn't manage to offer all gifted students a place in medicine. What could the athlete expect from the state? At least that it gives top athletes the chance to realize their own potential, of course not through doping, but by promoting their athletic and professional skills.
I chose this topic today to make the sports journalists present aware of the life situation of our top athletes: the life risk they are taking and the problem that they actually no longer have a model that gives their work meaning and long-term recognition. Their danger is that in the long term they could be among the losers in social dynamism. In any case, show sport is not a model on which to build a real existence. Her long, hard training work did not prepare her for a life on the red carpet.
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