Double gold for Germany, enthusiasm in the stands. On Sunday, 9,000 spectators celebrated their heroines in Munich’s Olympic Hall: Elisabeth Seitz and Emma Malewski were crowned European Champions in front of their home crowd at the European Championships.
Advertising for German competitive sport and once again the impetus to the question: why don’t we dare to try an Olympic summer fairy tale in this country?
Admittedly, the comparison between the Olympic Games and the European Championships is a bit skewed. One is the largest sporting event in the world and must be seen as an overall construct, the other is the merger of European championships under one catchy title. The organization of the events is fundamentally different.
At the European Championships in Munich, nine sports are currently looking for new title holders: triathlon and gymnastics, cycling, rowing, beach volleyball, canoe racing, climbing, table tennis and athletics. 177 gold medals are up for grabs; the format was held for the first time in 2018 in Berlin and Glasgow.
The Multi-EM, also called the Mini-Olympics by some, was aggressively marketed in advance and can now look forward to increasing TV ratings. Already on the third day of television broadcasts, the two million mark was broken several times. The peak value of the programs was on Sunday in the ARD with 2.4 million TV viewers at the triathlon. Swimming – Wellbrock and Co. do not compete in Munich but in Rome – climbing and gymnastics attracted more than two million spectators. ARD reports alternately with ZDF, which averaged around 1.4 million viewers for several hours on Saturday afternoon. In addition, the stations offer broadcasts on the Internet.
Admittedly, the ratings are difficult to compare with those at the Olympic Games. The market share is nevertheless significantly higher than if the sports had been marketed individually. Then the screen would almost certainly have remained completely black. Most recently, the swimming world championships were not broadcast on TV at all.
What’s more, the European Championships also generate enthusiasm in the host city. In bright sunshine, many Munich residents enjoy the competitions and the supporting program 50 years after the ’72 Olympics. Tickets are available from 20 euros, triathlon or the BMX and mountain bike competitions are free.
“I hope that these European Championships are a sign that we will again host the Olympic Games in Germany,” said Bavaria’s Minister of the Interior, Joachim Herrmann. His demand: Germany, no matter where it is located, has to pull itself together to apply.
European Championships yes, Olympics no. Why is that?
In short: The Multi-EM in Munich just got started. If German Olympic bids have not failed in the past due to a lack of votes at the International Olympic Committee (IOC), then they were already due to a lack of willingness among the population and politicians.
In the referendum on an application for the 2022 Winter Games, a narrow majority of Munich residents rejected the initiative. Also because the proponents had underestimated the resistance and could not mobilize enough people. Instead, Beijing hosted the games – and was heavily criticized for human rights violations and environmental damage in the country. From a German point of view, the bitter aftertaste remains: Olympia in an autocracy is absurd, but organize the event according to your own (high) standards? No thank you.
An application by Hamburg for the 2024 Summer Games also failed due to the unwillingness of the citizens. In the referendum, 51.6 percent (with a turnout of 50.2 percent) rejected the Hamburg Olympia am Hafen. Instead, France is now fueling Olympic anticipation for the Games in Paris.
While sports and politics are still debating the general conditions for the 2032 Rhein-Ruhr Olympics, the IOC is awarding the summer games to the Australian metropolis of Brisbane. Thomas Bach most recently brought a German Olympic festival into play in 2036. The IOC President dismissed concerns that right-wing extremists could turn this into a 100-year anniversary of the Nazi Games in Berlin: From an international perspective, nobody blames Germany for these Games of 1936. Rather, Germany could set an example; the date is more an opportunity than a problem.
One problem is certainly that huge sporting events such as the Olympic Games, which consume vast amounts of resources, no longer fit the zeitgeist. Costs in the billions (estimates say the equivalent of twelve billion euros for the Summer Games in Tokyo), unused competition sites and permanent environmental damage nip the anticipation in the bud; awareness of these issues is much more pronounced among the general public today.
But the European Championships could be a model for a more modern version of the Olympic Games.
The focus in Munich is on sustainability: existing infrastructure supplemented by transportable venues prevent rotting competition sites in the future. There is no counterpart to the Olympic Village that could subsequently remain empty. It’s not just the games, but essentially nine individual championships. Olympia without the village – previously unthinkable. It’s different here. And that saves costs.
A big plus for the spectators: the distances are short. The European Athletics Championships are held in the Olympic Stadium, triathlon, BMX and mountain bike competitions take place in the immediate vicinity in the Olympic Park. On the central Königsplatz, spectators can follow the beach volleyball and climbing championships, table tennis is played in the Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle.
The budget for the current sporting event in Munich is a total of 130 million euros. Of this, 100 million euros will be provided by the City of Munich, the Free State of Bavaria and the federal government. The difference should be financed with the economic income from the event.
The European Championships, as they are currently taking place, achieve something that the core brand Olympia has hardly been able to do for years: to kindle enthusiasm for Olympic sports. Perhaps the rousing impressions from Munich even have the power to break outdated patterns of thought and form a German majority for the largest sports festival in the world.