There were also big moments on Sunday, the last day of the finals. Tears of joy flowed from the annex of the Schützengilde Ditzingen. The last shot brought the decision in the duel with the Oberallgäu Gauschützen. The spectators, who had been holding their breath for a long time so as not to disturb the concentration of the shooters, cheered. And the public broadcasters were there with their streams and later in the summaries on television.
The finals are the big stage for the little ones in the German sports cosmos. At the same time, this year the Olympic Stadium was far too large a stage for the German Athletics Championships, which are embedded in the finals. The stadium, which seats almost 75,000 people, was shockingly empty. In 2019, for the first edition of the finals, just over 60,000 spectators came to the stadium on both days of the athletics championships. This year it was only a fraction of that.
Sure, the acoustics in the Olympic Stadium are outstanding. Even few fans can create a nice atmosphere; and athletes like the German champion over 100 meters, Owen Ansah, like to describe the blue track as “magical”. Nevertheless, largely empty ranks are sad – for the organizers and for the athletes.
When looking for the reasons for the striking decline in viewers, a call to Frank Lebert helps. The 61-year-old was responsible for marketing in the German Athletics Association (DLV) until last year. He now works in South Africa, among other things, as a consultant for the ambitious cycling team “Cycling Friends. “Athletics,” he says, “has taken place in the test tube in recent years.” Due to the pandemic, direct contact with people has broken off. “There was a de-emotionalization.” Thanks to political support, professional football got through the crisis unscathed and was able to keep its spectators. “But not the others. When it comes to track and field athletics, many who used to travel to the competitions are now realizing that it’s also very comfortable to watch it in front of the TV,” says Lebert.
In general, television. The public broadcasters are the co-founders and drivers of the final format. They covered canoe polo, 3×3 basketball, archery and much more via streams and television around the clock over the four days of the finals. It remains to be seen whether the use of personnel and resources is worthwhile. During the week the odds were quite disappointing, on the other hand they were good at the weekend from the empty Olympic Stadium.
On television, athletics is still a driving force in the finals format. Otherwise not. At the first finals in 2019, the pressure on the associations, but also on the Senate, was very great for the event to be a success, says Lebert, who was then DLV Marketing Manager. No expense was spared in promoting the finals and explicitly the national athletics championships embedded in them. This year, the bundled championships went under by comparison. In addition, the term “finals” causes confusion for many. Very few people know exactly what finals are and which sports are included.
On the other hand, the competitions at those sports facilities that guaranteed walk-in customers were very popular. At the Oberbaum Bridge, at the Brandenburg Gate or at the Neptune Fountain, where admission was free and the experience was closer than in the empty giant bowl of the Olympic Stadium.
There is certainly no more impressive sports facility in Germany than the Olympic Stadium. But the gigantism of the building is not only a problem for Hertha BSC, but also for the athletics at the finals.