5 Rings – 5 Questions: Verena Bentele is, among other things, the President of the Sozialverband VdK Germany and the Vice President of the DOSB. We spoke with her about the importance of sports in society.
Verena, you competed in the Paralympic Games four times and won 16 medals: What is your fondest memory of the Paralympics?
I was always inspired by the fact that so many athletes from different sports fields and countries spent two weeks together and shared their experiences. The tremendous amount of attention paid to Paralympic sports by the fans, the media, and politicians during the Paralympic Games was also particularly encouraging.
You are a former competitive athlete yourself. Today, you are the president of the largest social association in Germany. You are a sports coach and an ambassador of good causes. Based on your experience: How important are sports for our society?
Sports have the potential to be important role models for society. People, both with and without disabilities, working together, integration, the achievement of a common goal – all of those things are important for our coexistence and social harmony. Sports show us how this can be done.
Sports can have a positive influence on many areas of our society. From the issues of health all the way to inclusion: In what areas do you see a need for improvement?
There are still more male managers, coaches, etc. in positions of responsibility in sports. I think there needs to be more female representation in sports and that more money needs to be invested in equality. There is also still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to accessibility, for example, people who use wheelchairs are far from being able to access every sports facility. In addition, people with learning difficulties still find it challenging to find sports club where they can train.
What would the Olympic and Paralympic Games have to look like to have a lasting, positive impact on society?
The involvement of society in the respective host country is essential. Getting as many people as possible actively involved in the Games as volunteers, as fans, as people who benefit from new, affordable housing and refurbished sports facilities is crucial.
What are your expectations with respect to next year’s Paralympic Games in Paris? Do you expect to see as big a boost for Paralympic sports as you did during the 2012 Games in London?
I think the Paris Games will be a driving force for the Paralympics, because they will give a lot of people the chance to experience the atmosphere first hand, to go to the Games themselves, and to see the athletes perform in the stadium. I also hope that we will have a lot of media coverage as there will be no time difference. That will open the door for many people to change their perspectives regarding the potential and capabilities of people with disabilities. As a society, we all stand to benefit from the event.
All information on the issue of “society” can be found here.