Eighty years of building bridges: symposium honoured EOA President Manfred Laemmer for his contributions to sports

The ability of sport to build bridges is one of its most astonishing elements, which EOA President Manfred Laemmer, at the age of 80, has embodied like few others. In his honour, the EOA, together with four national sports institutions, the German Olympic Academy, the German Sports & Olympic Museum, Maccabi Germany and the Forum Sportpolitik of the German Sport University Cologne, organised a symposium entitled “Building Bridges Through Sport”.

The co-organisers brought together more than 50 sports officials and academics from the worlds of sports history, politics and the President’s acquaintances in Frankfurt. In six lectures, the German-English event saw an intensive and constructive-critical debate on the claim of sport as a bridge builder. The topics included reflections on the new Olympic motto (Sven Gueldenpfennig) and the development of global policies through learning from history (Uri Schaefer).

On the other hand, lectures on coming to terms with the Nazi history of Bayern Munich (Markwart Herzog), the history of boycotts against Israeli sport (Alex Feuerherdt), the current debate on dealing with Russian and Belarusian athletes in terms of a breach of human rights (Sylvia Schenk) and holding the Olympic Games in times of war (Andreas Hoefer) showed that sport was given a very high and not always achievable mandate.

The selection of topics provided strong references to the life and work of the honouree, which were accompanied by many small anecdotes by the lecturers and the international audience.

Manfred Laemmer, who already celebrated his 80th birthday in February 2023, was congratulated by warm video messages from the European Olympic Committees through Spyros Capralos, the International Olympic Academy team by Isidoros Kouvelos and Dionyssis Gangas and the European Fair Play Movement in words from their President Philippe Housiaux.

Manfred Laemmer received a special honour from the German Olympic Society, from whom he received a certificate for his 60 years of membership, presented by their Vice President, Norbert Lamp.

Juergen Mittag, moderator and co-organiser of the symposium, said, ”The symposium vividly demonstrated the influence and role of sport as a bridge builder and the changes that sport has undergone in recent decades. However, the challenges that arise from the high expectations that society places on sport also became clear.”

Gudrun Doll-Tepper, Chair of the German Olympic Academy and the German Sports & Olympic Museum, said, “Professor Laemmer made an invaluable contribution to developments of the Olympic Movement in institutions and organisations in Germany and beyond and over many decades has been building bridges through sport, between people of different cultures and religions.”

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