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Saturday, November 9, 2019

demolition of wall ~ this day, 30 years ago !!



Olympics showcases pride of Nations  !  ~  at the opening ceremonies of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, 2018, something spectacular happened: Athletes from North and South Korea, which have been bitterly divided for 73 years, marched beneath a unified flag. Though North and South appear no closer to reunification, the move was seen as an olive branch of sorts that could pave the way for better relations between the estranged countries—and it’s just one example of how the worldwide sporting event can bring people together, if only for a few weeks.  Yet that was not the first time in the history of Olympics !

Ulf Béla Timmermann is unique in someways ! the  German shot putter broke many world records during the 1980s and is the first and one of only two people to ever throw over 23 metres (along with Randy Barnes). On 22 May 1988 he became the first person to throw over 23 meters with a throw of 23.06 meters at Chania, Greece.  In 1988 Olympics he was the flag-bearer for his Nation, East Germany and was the last one to do so in an Olympics.    At the 1992 Olympics, he represented Germany, but finished a disappointing fifth. He left competition afterwards.

The German Democratic Republic (GDR), often called East Germany, founded a separate National Olympic Committee for socialist East Germany on 22 April 1951 in the Rotes Rathaus of East Berlin.  After the division of Germany following World War II, three separate states had been founded under occupation. After the Allies denied attempts made in 1947 to continue the participation of Germany at the Olympics, no German team could participate in the 1948 games. Finally, in 1949, the National Olympic Committee for Germany was founded in the Western Federal Republic of Germany. This was later recognized by the IOC as representing both German states. The small French-occupied Saarland and its NOC (SAA) joined the Federal Republic of Germany after 1955, having not been allowed to join the German counterparts previously. The East German Nationales Olympisches Komitee für Ostdeutschland authority refused to send their athletes to the 1952 games as participants of an all-German team, demanding a team of their own. This was denied by the IOC.  They agreed to participate in 1956. German athletes from the two remaining states competed at the Olympic Games in 1956, 1960 and 1964 as the United Team of Germany. While this team was simply called 'Germany' at the time, it is currently designated by the IOC as EUA, 'Équipe unifiée d'Allemagne'.

The socialist GDR erected the Berlin wall in 1961, during the Cold War. They renamed their NOC to Nationales Olympisches Komitee der DDR in 1965. It was recognized as an independent NOC by the IOC in 1968. Following this, the GDR ceased participation in the United German team and sent a separate East German team from 1968 to 1988, other than absences in the summer of 1984 in support of the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics. While the GDR, a small state with a population of about 16 million, has a short history, and even a shorter history at the Olympics, it was extremely successful. From 1976 to 1988, it came second in all three of their summer Olympics, behind the Soviet Union, and well ahead of larger West Germany. This was improved upon at five winter games, with 4 second-place rankings and a first in the 1984 Winter Olympics… but it was marred by allegations of   doping (predominantly anabolic steroids)!    A number of athletes subsequently failed doping tests and others were suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs. However, in many cases where suspicions existed, no proof of wrongdoing was uncovered. As a result, the majority of records and medals won by East German athletes still stand.

The wall that divided the Nations fell too !  ~ the  fall of the Berlin Wall started this day 30 years ago [on 9 Nov 1989], was a pivotal event in world history which marked the falling of the Iron Curtain. The fall of the inner German border took place shortly afterwards. An end to the Cold War was declared at the Malta Summit three weeks later, and the reunification of Germany took place during the following year.

The Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989.  Construction of the Wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) on 13 Aug 1961. The Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany.

GDR authorities officially referred to the Berlin Wall as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (Antifaschistischer Schutzwall). The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the "Wall of Shame", a term coined by mayor Willy Brandt in reference to the Wall's restriction on freedom of movement.  Along with the separate and much longer Inner German border (IGB), which demarcated the border between East and West Germany, it came to symbolize physically the "Iron Curtain" that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.  Before the Wall's erection, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and defected from the GDR, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin; from there they could then travel to West Germany and to other Western European countries. Between 1961 and 1989 the Wall prevented almost all such emigration.

Following the April 1989 dismantling of an electric fence along the border between Hungary and Austria, by early November refugees were finding their way to Hungary via Czechoslovakia or via the West German embassy in Prague. The emigration was initially tolerated because of long-standing agreements with the communist Czechoslovak government, allowing free travel across their common border. However this movement of people grew so large it caused difficulties for both countries. In addition, East Germany was struggling to meet loan payments on foreign borrowings; Egon Krenz sent Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski to unsuccessfully ask West Germany for a short-term loan to make interest payments.

                                    In 1989, a series of revolutions in nearby Eastern Bloc countries—Poland and Hungary in particular—caused a chain reaction in East Germany that ultimately resulted in the demise of the Wall.  After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the Wall.  The Brandenburg Gate in the Berlin Wall was opened on 22 Dec 1989. The demolition of the Wall officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in Nov 1991. The "fall of the Berlin Wall" paved the way for German reunification, which formally took place on 3 October 1990.

On 6 Nov 1989,  the Interior Ministry published a draft of new travel regulations, which made cosmetic changes to Honecker-era rules, leaving the approval process opaque and maintaining uncertainty regarding access to foreign currency.  After hearing the broadcast, East Germans began gathering at the Wall, at the six checkpoints between East and West Berlin, demanding that border guards immediately open the gates. The surprised and overwhelmed guards made many hectic telephone calls to their superiors about the problem. At first, they were ordered to find the "more aggressive" people gathered at the gates and stamp their passports with a special stamp that barred them from returning to East Germany—in effect, revoking their citizenship. However, this still left thousands of people demanding to be let through "as Schabowski said we can".  Finally, at 10:45 p.m. on 9 November, Harald Jäger, the commander of the Bornholmer Straße border crossing yielded, allowing for the guards to open the checkpoints and allowing people through with little or no identity checking. As the Ossis swarmed through, they were greeted by Wessis waiting with flowers and champagne amid wild rejoicing. Soon afterward, a crowd of West Berliners jumped on top of the Wall and were soon joined by East German youngsters.  The evening of 9 November 1989 is known as the night the Wall came down.

Interesting !  ~  the photo at the start is : Kristina Vogel, former track cyclist. During her career, she won two gold medals and a bronze at the Olympic Games, and is a nine-time UCI World Champion.  She was paralysed following a crash in June 2018.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
9th Nov. 2019.

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