People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 29, 2004
2004: The “GHOST” OF GDR
is official now. Amidst all the dope charges and drug charges in the 2004
Olympics, the USA is getting a silent drubbing though statistics and political
realities may not be showing it. The erstwhile German Democratic Republic (GDR)
seems to be smiling at Olympic champions America and others who once were in awe
1976, at the Montreal Olympic Games, the GDR (East Germany) for the first time
overtook the USA in terms of the number of gold medals won, though the US still
won more medals overall than the GDR. The next two Games were boycott affected.
The 1980 Moscow Games were boycotted by the Western nations, while the 1984 Los
Angeles Games were boycotted by the socialist bloc. Seoul in 1988 therefore
presented the next opportunity for a showdown between the major socialist
sporting nations and the champion of capitalism, the US. This time, the GDR was
decisively ahead of the US, beating it both in gold medals and on the total
those were the last Games in which the GDR would compete, since Germany was
reunited in 1990 and the socialist era in East Germany came to a close. Soon
thereafter, the Western media was replete with ‘exposes’ of the "East
German sports machine".
A picture was painted of a ruthless state machinery driving athletes to
inhuman feats and pumping them with drugs to enhance its medal tally. It is an
image that has endured in many people’s minds.
the reality is quite different, as is now becoming evident. Almost a decade and
a half after the re-unification of Germany, the former East Germany continues to
dominate the medal count for unified Germany at Athens.
the time of writing, the Germans had won 5 individual gold medals and 3 team
gold medals in Athens. Four of the individual golds were won by athletes born in
the GDR or the USSR in the 1970s. All had entered competitive sports while the
GDR still existed as a separate nation and some had even represented the GDR.
As for the team events, all three members of the men’s team sprint winners in
cycling were born in the GDR between 1970 and 1978, while 3 out of 4 rowers in
the women's quadruple sculls team were East Germans born between 1969 and 1976.
silver medals were no different. Of the 3 individual German silver medal
winners, 2 came from those born in the GDR,
while information about the birthplace of the third - Christian Lusch – was
not available. Of the 7 silver medals won in team events, 4 came from teams
consisting exclusively of East Germans, one (the tennis men's doubles) from a
team of West Germans and the remaining 2 from a mix.
is only in the bronze medal winners that West Germans made a significant
contribution. Of the 8 individual bronze medals, 4 came from athletes born in
West Germany, 3 from those born in the GDR and 1 from an athlete born in the
USSR in 1973. None of the team bronzes came from teams consisting exclusively of
East German or West German athletes. In fact, they included two people born in
South Africa too.
the whole, therefore, the former East Germany accounted for almost two-thirds of
the German medals.
What is more, that share is likely to increase further by the end of the Games,
with several East German canoeists likely to pick up medals. Clearly, therefore,
it is ideologically motivated propaganda to put down the good showing of the
socialist countries to mere doping or “sports machines”. The reality is that
socialism did (and does in Cuba even today) ensure that the masses are able to
access sports facilities and hence enormously expands the base from which talent
can be tapped and champions nurtured.