Friedhelm Julius Beucher represents sport and football this Wednesday in Berlin. Shortly after the Russian army invaded Ukraine, with decisive statements and interventions he ensured that the Russian team was excluded from the Paralympic Games in Beijing. Beucher, President of the German Disabled Sports Association, led the alliance in Beijing that prevented the world association IPC from using the loophole that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had opened with its recommendation to let Russian participants start as neutral athletes. Beucher made headlines.
It will not be difficult for the former SPD member of the German Bundestag and chairman of the Sports Committee to explain to the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid this Wednesday what constraints sport is subject to, what hopes and what greed it succumbs to when dealing with autocrats and dictators lets in Beucher could easily explain why the IOC is awarding its Winter Games to Beijing, even though China is persecuting the majority of its citizens and is interning Uyghurs en masse. And he will also have some insight into the reasons why football’s world governing body FIFA has awarded its World Cup to Qatar, an emirate that is still learning about human rights. Beucher is widely networked and is still a representative of a large sports coalition; on Tuesday, the social democrat visited the sports working group of the Union.
But representing sport and football on the committee is not Beucher’s job. A few weeks ago, the German Football Association (DFB) elected Bernd Neuendorf, a politician, who wants to be a visible sign of his commitment to families who have lost members because they died on construction sites in Qatar. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has been headed by the internationally experienced Thomas Weikert since December with the declared will to create an advisory board for human rights so that dubious regimes don’t always complain about the issue when major events are awarded. The committee did not invite either of them.
One may consider Neuendorf and Weikert to be beginners, find their attitude hypocritical, or judge their position towards the IOC and FIFA to be ineffective. But even that would speak more in favor of an invitation than against it. The politicians don’t care. Last year, the health committee showed little interest in the hiring of Germany’s largest sports federations when it organized a public hearing on the fallout from the pandemic. This was also an indication of the inadequate representation of interests in sport and of the ignorance of politicians.
The attitude of the Human Rights Committee seems like the next slap in the face. Inviting athletes’ representatives and human rights and labor organizations on the subject of human rights and sport is urgently needed. Ignoring the representatives of more than 25 million athletes in 90,000 clubs cannot be explained by blatant cluelessness and the lack of a presence of organized sport in politics, let alone excused. The occupation of this hearing testifies to a frightening narrow-mindedness. And of a blatant contradiction that has long been noticeable: on Sundays, politicians preach what connects sport, but do not take the work and everyday experiences of sport seriously. The invitation for Friedhelm Julius Beucher does not change that.