“Sport is much more than just football”
Olympic sport often struggles in vain for attention. The European Championships in Munich are now joining forces: 4700 athletes, nine sports under one roof. A great opportunity.
Mmunich has dressed up. There are spectator stands on the Odeonsplatz, tons of sand have been heaped up on the Königsplatz for a temporary beach volleyball arena, and the blue and orange logo and the words “European Athletics Championships” and “Munich 2022” are emblazoned in the Olympic Stadium and Park. The city is poised for its biggest multisport event since the Olympics 50 years ago. Ready for 4700 athletes from nine sports. For a sports festival that goes beyond sport.
What celebrated its premiere in Glasgow in 2018 is now being held for the second time here: a kind of mini-Olympics at European level, for which nine sports will hold their continental championships at the same location and thus pool their strengths. And that is accompanied by a range of art, culture and concerts. A chance for the athletes and the Olympic sport in general, which often leads a niche existence outside of the games. Here he gets the big stage.
An impressive 55,000 people came to the opening ceremony on Wednesday evening in the Olympic Park, which was closed due to overcrowding. By August 21, athletes will be fighting for European Championship titles in 177 medal decisions, and that in many sports venues of the 1972 Olympic Games. At the same time, the European Swimming Championships will be held in Rome.
For the individual sports, this means a great gain in attention – both in terms of the spectators on site, but above all with a view to the media presence. As in 2018, ARD and ZDF will be reporting extensively on television and live streams about the entire range of decisions.
“It is important that sport, apart from football, becomes more visible in society again,” says long jump Olympic champion Malaika Mihambo. “The sporting nation of Germany revolves around one sport above all. It’s a shame because sport is more than just football. It is therefore important that European championships in other sports take place in Germany. Children can experience this differently and then perhaps gain a foothold in these sports themselves. Not everyone has the talent to shoot football well on goal.”
Bring momentum to the clubs in Germany
Athlete spokeswoman Karla Borger, however, considers the call for a new German Olympic bid, which can be heard in some places in the wake of this event, to be premature. “Does it have to be new impetus for an Olympic application, or can it first bring a little impetus to the clubs in Germany and encourage more children and young people to do sports again?” says the President of the Association Athletes Germany and former world class -Beach volleyball player. “I think there is more demand at the moment.” What is certain is that the young and old spectators will experience top-class sport, top performances, drama and happy endings, role models and fairness.
Mihambo himself is still hoping for her participation despite a previous corona disease and the associated forced break. “I’ll try to start and do my best,” she says. The women’s long jump qualification is scheduled for next Tuesday.
While the athletics competitions take place in the Olympic Stadium, the triathletes, BMX freestylers and mountain bikers show their skills in the Olympic Park and the gymnasts in the Olympic Hall. The rowers and canoeists start on the regatta course from 1972 in Oberschleißheim, the track cyclists do their laps in the Munich Exhibition Center, table tennis balls fly in the Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle and the beach volleyball teams and climbers fight for medals on the Königsplatz. Compared to Glasgow, the involvement of the para-athletes in rowing and canoeing is new, and table tennis, climbing, canoeing and beach volleyball weren’t there at the premiere either.
Track and field athletes break out in 2024
“I hope that there will be a synergistic effect so that all participating sports come out better than there would be in individual competitions,” says Mihambo. “Small or less well-known sports can be particularly beneficial, but athletics can also benefit from it.”
However, not everyone sees it that way. In 2018, the track and field athletes did not hold their competitions in Glasgow but in Berlin, albeit in the same period of time, so that they were still part of the event in the media presentation. For 2024 it is already certain: The European Athletics Championships will not be held as part of the European Championships, they have already been awarded to Rome.
The German association president Jürgen Kessing thinks that is correct. “The European athletics representatives have noticed that they are only one of nine sports and no longer have the importance that we give ourselves,” says Kessing. “Then it is more than logical to say that we can do it on our own. They want to emphasize the “stand alone” as a trademark again.”