Walther Tröger would like to tell his life based on the Olympic Games. “The Olympic Games were my purpose in life,” he finally said himself on his 90th birthday in an interview with “Welt”. Well then: 1964, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1992, 2008. Olympic years, Tröger years.
1964, Winter Games in Innsbruck: These are the first games for the sports official Tröger, he is only 34, but has been Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee for three years, and right at its premiere he has the tricky task of making athletes from the Orchestrate the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR. A political minefield.
The connection between sport and politics, that was always Tröger’s territory, he would only have given up tiredly when he said that sport and politics shouldn’t be mixed up. He knew from the start how inseparable it is.
Negotiated with the Palestinians
In 1968 in Mexico, East and West are separated for the first time, the GDR is present as a sporting nation of its own. Tröger later said that he was also happy about the success of the GDR athletes, “I was always a reconciler, not a divider.”
But despite all the political tension at that time, the Games in Mexico are also great sporting festivals. Tröger sits next to the long jump pit when US athlete Bob Beamon jumps into another century, he watches Dick Fosbury, who is revolutionizing the high jump, and after these games at the latest, Tröger is the most ardent admirer of the Olympic idea. Back when it was still within reach. Maybe you have to have been there as close and for as long as Tröger to be able to understand that until today.
In 1972, at the Games in Munich, he was already one of the most important sports officials, as the so-called mayor of the Olympic Village, he experienced first hand one of the most terrible moments in Olympic history, the attack by the Palestinian terrorists on the Israeli delegation. Hostage taking, threats, murder.
Tröger has to negotiate with the hostage-takers, the leader of the group is sitting at the table with the hand grenade close at hand. “It’s the worst, most tragic event of my career in sports politics,” said Tröger. Even he can’t do anything to prevent a bloodbath in the end. Unlike the then NOK boss Willy Daume, Tröger takes the side of those who want the games to continue. In spite of everything. Avery Brundage, the IOC boss, says the famous sentence: “The Games must go on,” and Tröger would have signed this sentence.
Eight years later, in 1980, he is on the side of the boycott opponents who, despite the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, want to take part in the summer games in Moscow. But politics is putting too much pressure on, the influence of Daume and Tröger is reaching its limits, the German team stays away from the games. Tröger has always called this a mistake, the boycott ultimately brought nothing – apart from the counterattack of the Eastern bloc four years later at the Los Angeles games.
Twelve years after Moscow, East and West are together again, the circle closes in 1964, in Albertville the first all-German team after the fall of the Berlin Wall is presented. The Olympic team creams off heavily in the medal balance. But the conflicts that the unification of the two sports federations brought with it were also confused by Tröger, who was again Chef de Mission on the German side at the time: doping, Stasi, that was left under the table in the rain of medals of 1992, but it didn’t stay there. “I think we have clarified that in the interests of the athletes concerned,” said Tröger in retrospect in the “Welt”. Then the view of the functionaries caught up with him.
2008 in Beijing: Walther Tröger’s last games as an IOC member. When he reaches the age limit of 80 years, he says goodbye to the committee to which he had been a member for 20 years. He witnessed and accompanied the transformation of the IOC into a ruthless commercial accelerator – and yet he remained one of the times. While others in the IOC mercilessly enriched themselves, participated in all power games, tinkered with their own careerism, Tröger was something like the last Olympian in the Olympus of functionaries. When he said he was all about the Olympics, people were tempted to do it for him.
Not a glorious farewell
Beijing was his departure from the great IOC stage, not a glorious one for him. He was one of the staunch defenders of the award of the Games to China, despite all the concerns of human rights organizations. His sentence: “Anyone who violates the prohibition of illegal advertising or propaganda in marked areas can be excluded immediately after checking the individual case” was understood as a threat to athletes to position themselves politically during the games.
He could have gotten a better finish, it would have been deserved. But as much as he experienced and helped shape the connection between sport and politics for so many years, he was also a representative of those who saw politics as the task of the officials, not the athletes. There, too, he was one of the old school.
To be able to see the Olympic Games in Tokyo, that was his wish. Due to Corona and the postponement of the games, this wish was denied to him. Walther Tröger died on Wednesday at the age of 91. Olympia was his world, “Mister Olympia” he was called. But the way the Olympics were last had little to do with what Tröger had once known, what he thought he felt at the edge of the long jump pit in Mexico City in 1968.