Following an invitation from Refugee Olympic Team athlete Yusra Mardini, on Wednesday IOC President Thomas Bach congratulated students of the graduating class of the “Sportschule im Olympiapark – Poelchau Oberschule” in Berlin. The sports school is located on the premises of the Berlin Olympic Park where the Olympic Games 1936 were held, and all its students are high-performance athletes.
Addressing the 50 students at the graduation ceremony, the IOC President said: “Congratulations on your graduation from this outstanding school, which is open to the world and is so inspirational because of its location. Your school is sending a message on the importance of the values of sport. Here you had the privilege to combine education with learning the values of sport. You more than deserve your certificates today.”
Learning by doing is the secret of sport, the IOC President went on to say. Entering a new stage in their lives, the graduates will now realise what they have gained through sport. “Always stay open to try out new things,” President Bach told them. “The values of sport will help you overcome many hurdles in life. Thanks to sport, I am sure you will not approach a task and say ‘I will never make it’, but instead you will ask ‘How do I make it?’ The passion for excellence that you have learned through sport will serve you well for new challenges ahead of you.”
Poelchau Oberschule is one of 43 sports schools in Germany. Many Olympians and successful German athletes attended school there. One of them is Annika Schleu, a modern pentathlete who also joined the graduation ceremony in Berlin today. She finished in fifth place at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, but after a doping case involving another competitor, she now moves up to fourth place. President Bach surprised her by presenting her with her official diploma. He told her: “I watched your final in Rio and was so impressed with how you competed and jumped from 19th to fifth place. Now you have even moved up to fourth. Congratulations again on your success at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.”
Before attending the graduation ceremony, the IOC President gave his support to a countrywide initiative called “School against racism – school with courage,” which the Poelchau Oberschule officially joined today. He was joined by Schleu and Maurice Jüngling, a member of the German national water polo team.
“Through sport you can do a lot for courage and against racism. This is the true meaning of sport. In sport, we are all the same and follow the same rules. The message of sport is a message against racism,” President Bach said. “Sport and racism do not go together.” He also donated 5,000 euros to the project. To date, 2,434 German schools have joined the initiative.
The IOC President also toured the school together with Mardini, her coach Sven Spannekrebs and school principal Matthias-Carsten Rösner. Mardini, who is not a graduate yet, showed him the pool where she prepared for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and the small room she stayed in when she first arrived in Germany as a refugee from Syria.