5 Rings – 5 Questions: Interview with German Olympic Sports Federation (DOSB) President Thomas Weikert on the launch of the “Your Ideas. Your Games.” dialog initiative.

Mr. Weikert, you were a guest at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin and the European Games in Krakow a few weeks ago. What were your takeaways from those two events?

The Special Olympics World Games made two things particularly clear to me. Firstly: Germany, in this case Berlin, is capable of hosting major sporting events. Secondly: Major sporting events can be quite inspiring if they are sustainable and cost-effective – especially if they take everyone along for the ride. For example, when the wave of euphoria ripples out from the stadiums and the sports venues to the entire city or – as was the case with the World Games’ Host Town Program – to the entire country.

The European Games in Krakow clearly demonstrated how important multi-sport events are for elite sports. The chances to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and the European Championships make them particularly attractive. Last but not least, the great performances put forth by our athletes have, of course, also whetted our appetite for next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

That brings us to the issue at hand – the Olympics: Today, the DOSB is embarking on a journey to renew its bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it is also launching its dialog initiative. What are your objectives?

“Your Ideas. Your Games.” Basically, everything that we want to achieve along this long road is reflected in that statement. We are not interested in simply engaging in a conversation with the public. We would like to discuss issues together and find out whether or not people are in favor of hosting the Games, and why. We would also like feedback regarding what they should look like and what would have to be changed. Our goal is to work together with the public in order to lay the foundation for a bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The bid will be “Made by Germany”.

We want to educate, inform, and eliminate the reservations that are often attached to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and not without good reason. We are also intent on involving everyone, especially those who may not care about the Olympics or elite sports at all. After all, we are convinced that the Olympic and Paralympic Games can generate added value for society as a whole.

How is this process different from previous attempts?

This time, we plan to involve the public from the very start. Our biggest priority will be getting an answer to the following question from the public as a whole: “Why should the Olympic and Paralympic Games be held in Germany?” There are, of course, a number of other questions that come into play: “What arguments can be made for the hosting of the Summer Games and the Winter Games, respectively?

We have already established some clear principles, however: We will exclusively rely on existing sports facilities. Germany has two functioning Olympic stadiums. Why should we build another one? We also intend to move away from the single-city host concept. Last but not least, we would like to enter into a continuous exchange with our member organizations, the athletes, the cities, politics, and, of course, the public from the very beginning.

What’s also important: We are not the only ones who are doing things differently. The IOC has also changed. Thanks to various reforms, the Games will be more sustainable, less expensive, and more transparent in the future. The days of Olympic behemothry are over. That’s because host cities no longer have to adapt to the Games. The Games have to adapt to the hosts. That reality will be visible in Paris in 2024 – and beyond.

What chance does a German bid have of successfully competing internationally?

We wouldn’t be doing our job as professionals if we didn’t closely monitor and evaluate international developments. Nevertheless: For the time being, we are concentrating on developing a bid that, first and foremost, suits Germany, not least because the IOC, for its part, has now adopted the clear guiding principle that the Games should adapt to the host, not the other way around. Therefore, we are confident that a bid concept that builds completely on existing and modernized sports infrastructure, does not require the construction of costly new buildings, and has been co-developed with the public will be met with broad approval throughout society.

The new DOSB Executive Board and I, in particular, have established a very good relationship with the IOC despite these difficult geopolitical times.

I have been in regular contact with President Thomas Bach. Of course, that is by no means a guarantee for the international success of a prospective bid, especially given the current situation. We are well aware of that fact.

What are the DOSB’s next steps in terms of the bid?

As part of the process, we intend to create a wide range of opportunities for all segments of the population to be involved. Starting today, the website for the “Your Ideas. Your Games.” initiative as well as the associated social media platforms will be available. From this point forward, everyone will be able to find out more about our process and to actively participate in it – be it via a survey on the website, via a comment on a tweet or post, or via the sharing of your own thoughts, ideas, and opinions. We will answer all questions that are submitted to us and will permanently post them on the website.

At this point, I would like to explicitly point out that we are only at the beginning of the process and that much of the content that is to be worked out during the dialog forums is still missing. The dialog forums will allow us to gain more insight into the questions that are burning in the minds of our citizens, and we will then work together to answer those questions.

Our expert talks will provide a great opportunity for participants to get detailed answers to complex questions. Experts from the fields of sports, business, sustainability, and society will discuss various issues relating to the Olympics in Germany. Social media will give everyone the opportunity to participate by submitting questions or comments.

Needless to say, we would also like to engage in dialog with the local citizens of the respective cities. To that end, we will be holding dialog forums in the fall in the five cities or regions, which will ultimately form the basis of a concept. The results of the dialog process will be presented at the DOSB General Assembly on 2 December 2023. As you can see, we have a lot planned between now and the end of the year.