Sport and Leasure
Germans love sports. Their love finds many expressions, perhaps none more vocal than their support of their favorite soccer clubs, the men's and women's national soccer teams or of athletes like Dirk Nowitzki, biathlete Magdalena Neuner, F1 champion Sebastian Vettel or skier Maria Riesch.
But they love to participate, too. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), a non-governmental organizing body of German athletics, has 27.6 million members in over 91,000 clubs, and it supports all levels of play. Indeed, its motto of “Sport for all” opens a wide door to varying degrees and types of athletic interests.
Sport is financed by means of state funding and state contributions, voluntary service, private sponsors and membership fees.
Practically every city in Germany offers a Freibad, an open-air water park or pool. Many of these are quite large and offer multiple pools, allowing the kids and social groups to be separated from the more serious swimmers looking to get in a few laps. These outdoor pools have a long history in Germany and have been popular since the 18th century.
In Berlin, there’s something called the Badeschiff, a large swimming pool fashioned out of an old ship that floats on the river Spree. This builds on the 18th-century tradition of locating swimming pools along the river. In Berlin alone, there were said to be 15 such pools along the Spree, and they were common in cities throughout Germany. Some are even still being used. The Badeschiff is, however, thoroughly modern: in addition to functioning as a pool, it serves as a venue for concerts and boasts an open-air bar in the summer.
Germans love horseback riding and equestrian sports. About 1.24 million people in Germany are active riders and 870,000 would like to start riding, according to a survey by market research institute Ipsos (published by the Deutsche Reiterliche Vereinigung). On the international stage, Germany is the most successful nation worldwide in equestrian sports.
This explains why there are more than one million horses and ponies in Germany, which represents a quadrupling of the national horse population over the last 40 years. In addition, there are 8.7 Mio. Germans interested in the sport and its various disciplines.
Initially, gymnastics was a purely male activity. Women were viewed as the weaker sex, and doctors and teachers saw health risks in female gymnastics and the endangerment of propriety at public events. But as women’s role evolved around the turn of the 20th century, views changed with respect to female gymnastics. In 1897, approx. 3 percent of association members in Germany were women; in 2008, nearly 70 percent.
Today, the Association of German Gymnasts has over five million members. Every age group engages in sports – from young children to seniors. Both performance and recreational sports trace back to Jahn’s model. Modern-day gymnastics clubs contribute significantly to the well-being of society.