Leipzig – One of the hubs of the former East German sports system

Back in March I was invited to Leipzig by Hartmut Sander who was attending the IASI Conference in Canberra. He said if I was ever in Leipzig he would arrange a visit to the Sports Institute.

The train ride on the inter-regional express takes just over an hour to get to the city of 500,000 which is south-west of Berlin. I took a series of connecting local trains, much cheaper and a pleasant 3 hour journey.

I decided to take my bike along (oh yeah I bought a Dahon foldaway bike to cruise around Berlin on in August) and found my way to the Institute pretty easily.

One of Hartmut’s colleagues Cassy showed me around the Institute which is different to the AIS in that athletes do not live here. They are based at any one of of the 13 regional Olympic training centers throughout Germany. I met a few of the sport scientests responsible for measureing the progress of some of Germany’s best athletes. Paul Biedermann and Britta Steffen were tested there just before the recent World Swimming Championships in Rome where they dominated with astounding world records in the pool.

It’s such an interesting mix of the old East German way of sports an the new influence from the West. There was a real close relationship between the sport scientist and coach in the planning/preparation/testing of athletes and so it is now in the former East German states. It’s seems as though in the former-West that there is a distance between the scientist and coach/athlete. I think this is how it is in Australia, with the coach/athlete not quite ready to trust in sports science.

The good food aside (!) the East German way was impressive. The area where I visited was called Sportforum, a part of the city dedicated to sport. There’s the sports school, still producing champions, but not in the machine like way of the eighties. 

  • The ride to Markkleeberg
  • St Nicholas


Roof in St Nicholas, Leipzig
Roof in St Nicholas, Leipzig



  • The German Open at Kanupark


Canoe slalom at Kanupark, Markkleeberg See
Canoe slalom at Kanupark, Markkleeberg See



[More to come… Have to watch Sixteen Candles with Loz in memory of Director John Hughes who I just found out passed away 3 days ago. Two icons of the eighties dying this year]

Author: patbirgan

Australian living in Italy and managing the AIS European Training Centre. In my spare time I like to watch, write, tweet, commentate, manage, immerse in all things athletics.

3 thoughts on “Leipzig – One of the hubs of the former East German sports system

  1. hmmm… I am going to try.. think I can do it for about $200 extra. Have to send a heap more stuff back to get the check-in luggage weight down..

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