our dead interesting new series.
The godlike genius of Katrin Krabbe (below). great chat show catastrophes and
ofonly 17 million. created a remarkable impact on world athletics. How did they do it? Drugs? Intensive training?
production line. Perversely. what had been set up as the
socialist ideals became the antithesis of
flex its muscles beyond the Iron Curtain.
East Germany, with a population
Channel 4 and Ross Parsons try
It‘s the end ofan era in World Athletics. East German domination is over. No more will the frosty Fraiileins and their male compatriots hog the medals at major meets. The unprecedented success ofsuch a small nation in several highly competitive fields ofsport has been the subject of much speculation. Recently. cameras from VATV entered the hitherto verboten world of East Germany's pampered sports stars to seek out the formula for their success. The resultant The Winning Streak for Channel 4 (Sunday 28) records the break-up of an extraordinary
standard bearer in a triumphant march-past of
collectivist principles. Sport for a chosen few became the priority over sport for all. For East Germany. too poor even to make it to the starting blocks of the Space Race. winning medals in international competitions was a cost-effective way of making their mark on the world. It was during the early 60s that their Ministry of Sport first expanded phenomenally under a massive injection of funding and manpower and began to
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Kalrin Krabbe. one
oilhe manyto sprinters to emerge irom the East German stable. Channel 4 hold a steward’s inquiry.
Their victories have always been viewed with suspicion by outsiders. The easy explanation for a nation ofunder 20 million whipping the rest of the world in track and field events was that their athletes must be pumped full ofsteroids. To Western commentators the East German national anthem became as synonomous with drug abuse as a Grateful Dead album. The Winning Streak concerns itselfwith the more complex reasons for the GDR's phenomenal achievements. The extensive research that sports scientists over the Wall now admit to having carried out into the effects ofchemical substances was only one small part of the development of
East German success was solidly founded on
the massive DTSB sports federation — rather than being built on a group of boffins force-feeding their protegés cocktails of steroids. The bloated DTSB was a bureaucratic army of sports doctors. scientists and coaches which no other country could match. In Britain. for example. there are twelve full-time coaches. The DTSB had 11,000. According to the documentary‘s producer. Mike Johnston. ‘They had a massive investment in sport. Estimates vary between two and three per cent of their GNP. which is just huge compared to the chicken-feed over here.‘ The scale of the government‘s investment enabled each athlete to benefit from a vast back-up team of experts constantly monitoring their progress.
This elitist system. which allowed for 1200 lecturers for 1000 students at a sports university 5 and a dozen chefs labouring full-time to prepare
nutritionally balanced fodder for the prize . athletes at one club. has become a convenient 3 target in the post-Wall era. While the cameras 3 were there Cordula Schubert. the then minister l for sport in East Germany. was busy trying to reverse the policy of medals-at-all-costs and open up the facilities to Johann Public.
l The power of the DTSB has been sapped. lts
; medal hauls of the past stand as symbols of the
ancien regime. Coaches. sports scientists and athletes are leaving in droves. wandering across Europe like a disbanded army. Other European countries will now be able to benefit from their depth of knowledge gleaned over the years at the remarkable DTSB.
The Winning Streak records the twilight era of the GDR‘s dazzling success. It is unlikely ever to be matched. No capitalist country would ever tolerate the huge expense and overmanning of the system that produced so many world record holders. Nor could they exercise the power to corral their promising young citizens into intensive athletic training schools and clubs at the age of nine. as the GDR could. The mould has now been broken and all we in the West can do is look back in awe at the scale of the German Democratic Republic‘s commitment to sport. (Ross Parsons)
The Winning Streak is broadcast on Sunday 28 October at 7pm on Channel 4.
_ Navel gazing
Media's obsession with navel-gazing has long been a lacet oi quality newspapers, and TV has recently taken it up enthusiastically with programmes like The Media Show and Hard News. Now it is the turn oi radio to get into the act, busily analysing and criticising the medium's output in a new series ol
76 The List 26 October — 8 November 1990
Radio 4's The Radio Programme.
The timing is ideal, as radio undergoes a substantial upheaval with lormer pirates lowering the skull and crossbones and being welcomed into the cosy broadcasting laid, and the BBC rationalislng its output, putting Radio 1 on FM, and creating Radio 5 as an outlet lor sport and educational programmes. These two issues occupy the attention at the lirst programme in the eight-part series oi The Radio Programme presented by Prolessor Laurie Taylor, with iuture shows having
plenty oi promising material to cover, with all the ramilicaiions oi licensing, broadcasting boundaries and station content. A recent controversy over station genres even inspired the House at Lords to make a judgement on what constituted ‘rock' music.
The lirst programme also promises to tackle the question at audience market research, to what extent it can be credible, and ways oi improving it. Increasingly radio stations are having to adopt a more prolessional attitude to audience research, as advertising
agencies are offered more radio outlets with more narrowly-deiined audience proiiles.
The programme linishes oli with a panel oi critics analysing two recent programmes. The lormat is reminiscent oi the lormer BBC TV series Did You See presented by Ludovic Kennedy. Hopelully it will prove equally adept at charting the strengths and weaknesses at a medium in a distinct state at llux. (Tom Lappin) The Radio Programme, Radio 4 Oct 28, 3.30pm (repeated Tue 11pm).