With the regional summer holidays in mind, the German Olympic Academy (DOA) hosted Olympic Day on Tuesday – three days before the founding day of the International Olympic Committee, which was founded 129 years ago on 23 June 1894. For the eighth time, the German Sports & Olympic Museum (DSOM), located directly at the Rhine port of Cologne, was the venue for the event. The guests: athletes from Team Germany and Team Germany Paralympics, exhibitors and partners as well as around 300 pupils from grades 5 to 7.
Clubs, associations and organisations introduce themselves
A colourful programme awaited the classes from Cologne, Bonn, Dormagen and Leverkusen: organisations such as the National Anti Doping Agency, the German Sports Youth and the German-French Youth Office, clubs such as the Cologne Sharks and associations such as the German Surfing Association offered exercise programmes at activity stands.
In addition, DSOM staff guided the school classes through the museum and showed the children the world of sport from ancient times to the present. A special highlight were the three talks with athletes from Team Germany and Team Germany Paralympics, who answered the children’s questions – moderated by Kai Gemeinder.
Big names – on stage and in the audience
Lea Krueger (fencing), Christian Ehrhoff (ice hockey) and Laura Nolte (bobsleigh) from Team Germany and Marc Lembeck and Kathrin Marchand (Para rowing) from Team Germany Paralympics sat on the podium in alternating constellations. But there were not only celebrities on stage, but also in the audience. Among the teachers who had come with their classes from different types of schools were two Olympians, Jonas Reckermann and Heike Laetzsch. Reckermann had sensationally won gold in beach volleyball in London in 2012 with his partner Julius Brink. Laetzsch was no less sensational in winning Olympic gold with the women’s hockey team in Athens 2004.
Her students also asked the athletes numerous questions – from funny to profound. Lea Krueger, German vice-champion in the sabre discipline, told of her fencing beginnings. As a child, she grew up not far from a castle. “That’s probably why I wanted to become a knight,” said Krueger with a wink.
Laura Nolte and Marc Lembeck both originally came from athletics, but then took different paths. While Nolte sat in a bobsleigh for the first time at the age of 16, won gold in the monobob at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer 2016 just one year later and crowned her meteoric rise with gold in the two-man bobsleigh at the Olympic Games in Beijing 2022, Lembeck was drawn to para rowing. The runner-up in the mixed four was born with ten per cent vision, but does not let this limitation affect his sporting or professional life as inclusion manager at the German Rowing Association.
Kathrin Marchand, who won the 2022 World Championship silver medal together with Lembeck, also sat on the stage. Her special story: She was still competing at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. After suffering a stroke, the future orthopaedic surgeon switched to Paralympic sport – with great success.
Ice hockey star Christian Ehrhoff, silver medallist in Pyeongchang 2018, also reported setbacks in his career, which has many highlights with the German championship in 2003 and 13 years in the National Hockey League in America. After a bat hit him in the left eye, he can barely see out of it. But that doesn’t stop him from making his comeback in the 2nd German Ice Hockey League at the age of 40.
Strong partners, strong campaign
Dr. Gerald Fritz, Director of the DOA, welcomed the guests of honour around Friedhelm Julius Beucher, President of the German Disabled Sports Association, and expressly thanked the partners: Sportland.NRW, which was represented in Cologne by Dirk Schimmelpfennig, Head of the Competitive Sports Department of the State Chancellery of North Rhine-Westphalia; Allianz, which also brought its own campaign stand where classes could win two exercise bins for their schools; EDEKA, Premium Partner of Team Germany.
“With the German Sports & Olympic Museum, we can rely on established structures and a strong partnership,” Fritz summed up. Thanks to this experience and the energetic commitment of the volunteers, everyone involved was very satisfied: “Sport connects, the Olympic Day connects. We saw that again this year. All of us, the athletes, students and organisers, had a happy smile on our faces during the event – and with this smile, we will be happy to come back to Cologne next year.
Title photo: © DOA/Kai Peters