Giant on the move
“Sport builds bridges, not walls” – Germany
Germans have had an extraordinarily unique perspective on the issue of Olympic boycotts — and what they might or might not accomplish.
Germany is the only country whose competitors missed the 1980 and 1984 Olympics due to boycotts. Germany was reunited in 1990. West Germany joined the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan while Communist East Germany joined the Soviet Union and east bloc allies in boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
So it is perhaps worth listening to the views of Germany’s Olympic Committee. In a statement signed by German Olympic Committee (DOSB) president Thomas Bach, the DOSB said it won’t participate in any boycott of the Beijing Olympics in light of the unrest in and around Tibet — because past experience has shown their impact to be limited.
“After carefully considering all the arguments, the DOSB will send its team to the 2008 Olympics,” said the statement signed by Bach that nevertheless condemned the violence in Tibet. “Sport is not a suitable tool to be used to apply political pressure. Sport is not in a position to solve the problems that neither the United Nations nor individual nations were able to resolve despite decades of effort.”
Bach won a gold medal in fencing for West Germany at the 1976 Olympics, when African nations walked out in protest against a New Zealand rugby tour of racially segregated South Africa.
But he did not get the chance to defend his medal in 1980 when West Germany joined the U.S.-led boycott. In recent weeks many Germans — both east and west of the Iron Curtain that divided Germany during the Cold War — have spoken out against a boycott, saying they are pointless. Even though some political leaders have raised their voice on behalf of a boycott, the DOSB underscored that view that boycotts do not work.
“That’s been confirmed by all the previous experience. We believe sport is there to promote dialogue and international understanding. Sport builds bridges, not walls.”
Photo: Thomas Bach, president of the German Olympic Sports Federation (DOSB). Photo by Alex Grimm