Being a member of the Bundeswehr is a privilege. At least for athletes who have medal ambitions at the Olympics. The military is the country's largest state sponsor of high-performance sports. And there is criticism about that.
"Sport and the military never again!" – a demilitarization of top-class sports, which was a lesson from fascism, "can be seen today," writes political scientist Lisa Klie. At the end of April she published the study »Militarization through Top Sport. The German Federal Armed Forces' promotion of excellence «as part of an internship at the Tübingen Information Office Militarization (IMI). With the study she wants to show, "how closely the German top sport is connected with the military and how the Bundeswehr uses the sport as recruitment medium".
The fusion of Bundeswehr and competitive sports goes back to a decision of the Bundestag in 1968. In it, the Federal Government was requested "to set up promotional groups for the promotion of top athletes in the Bundeswehr, which should as far as possible be based on performance centers of the sports associations". In 1971, the Federal Ministry of Defense published for the first time »regulations for top-level sport promotion in the Bundeswehr«.
About the key data: With a budget of just under 36 million euros (2019), the Bundeswehr currently allocates 823 posts in top-level sport promotion. Most of the so-called Förderplaetze are occupied with athletes, of it 255 women and 437 men. 48 trainers and 13 physiotherapists occupy the remaining promotion places. This means that even more production sites than the target of 744 set in 2012 are being used. 30 posts are reserved for non-civilian military sports and 43 posts for the management personnel of the 15 Bundeswehr sports promotion groups. The majority of the 1,200 state bodies of top sports funding, in addition to the federal police, state police and customs, the Bundeswehr.
The selection is elitist: Only athletes of the national teams from the classified federal cadres are proposed by the respective sports association in consultation with the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) for one of the sports funding groups. Sports soldiers earn on average just under 2,600 euros a month.
Olympic precious metal is the yardstick of success, emphasizes the Bundeswehr. 30 percent of the Olympians in the summer and 59 percent at the Winter Games are currently receiving pay from the federal government, has researched Klie. As a result, these sports events "are increasingly becoming military festivals and the performance of military strength," the author complains.
And the athletes? The fencer Maximilian Hartung, spokesman for the athletes commission in the DOSB, said in February 2017 in an interview with the FAZ: "I do not consider the Bundeswehr a particularly good instrument of sports promotion." According to Klie, active in the role of sports soldiers become "advertising mascots": "The Bundeswehr is in a dangerous light of a fun club, without the impact and consequences of Enlightenment war effort. "Gender equality is not in sight in the Bundeswehr with its patriarchal structures, according to the author.
The press department of the Armed Forces Base did not respond very well. A spokeswoman ignored the content of the jwInquiry into the "militarization of sport by the Bundeswehr" and referred instead to the "esteem" of the Bundeswehr, which with the "award> top sports friendly operation <by the Sports Ministers Conference, the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce and DOSB in November 2018" takes place be.
Sports politicians faced with the IMI study were facing jw more precise. "There must be sufficient alternatives for athletes who do not identify with the values of the Bundeswehr," demands Britta Dassler, sports policy spokeswoman for the FDP parliamentary group, without wanting to abolish the Bundeswehr as a promotional instrument of elite sports. Her SPD colleague Detlev Pilger sees no "militarization of sport" by the Bundeswehr. After all, participation in the support programs is voluntary and military deployment is unlikely. The fact that the Bundeswehr is doing PR through top-level sport promotion can "be viewed critically," says Monika Lazar, sports policy spokeswoman for the parliamentary group Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen. »It is important,« she emphasizes, »that there are sufficiently civilian and comparably financially equipped alternatives in state sports promotion.«
Klie thinks so too, but that's exactly where it hangs. For which alternatives can top athletes choose? The Bundestag has almost doubled the budget for athlete support of Stiftung Sporthilfe with seven million euros in 2019, but the monetary support of some 100 euros per month per athlete remains far behind the salary of athletes in Flecktarn. Klie: "There is almost a compulsion to join the Bundeswehr" because of missing and comparable alternatives in the promotion of top athletes, whether one is or was an enemy of the war. A frightening normalization process is the increasing acceptance of the German Armed Forces as a sports sponsor, and that, Klies concludes, "is driving forward a creeping militarization of society."