The Olympics, whether winter or summer, have become a convenient showcase for the socialist system of the German Democratic Republic -- East Germany. No country squeezes so much out of so few. Though a nation of just 17 million people East Germany is now firmly established as one of the the world's leading athletic powers via its success in the quadrennial games.
The disproportionate success of the East Germans has seen them finish second to the Soviet Union in gold medals in each of the last three Olympics -- and actually beat out everyone in terms of total medals here.
Their nine golds, seven silvers, and seven bronzes for 23 medals this year stand in stark contrast to the lone bronze attributable to the young Deutsche Demokratische Republik the first time it entered any athletes in the olympics 24 years ago at Cortina, Italy. From those games through 1964, athletes from both east and West Germany competed as members of a single all-German team, but since then they have been permitted to enter their own separate team.
It took a while, of course, before the statesupported development programs, sometimes referred to as "sports factories" in the West, began to turn out an abundance of finely tuned athletes. The results began to show up markedly in 1972 at Munich, and by now the system is obviously operating at peak efficiency.
Some observers, however, view this efficiency warily, wondering if athletes are manufactured pawns of the state.
The East Germans make no bones about their approach to sports which they consider essential to the fabric of a well rounded socialist life. In a glossy magazine entitled "Sports in the GDR" Dr. Thomas Kohler, a leading East German sports official, speaks of how physical culture and sport are develop ing at the same rate as the living standards of "our advanced society are steadily rising."
Since there is no better place than the Olympics to parade a nation's sports prowess, the GDR centers its efforts around the games. Young athletes generally get their first taste for what the Olympics are like in a national version of them called the Spartakiad (the name is derived from Spartacus, leader of the slave revolt against Rome). After a year-long series of regional competitions, the top boys and girls from thousands of sports clubs around the country come together in a spectacle commencing with an athelete's oath and the lighting of the Spartakiad flame.
These games help to sift out the most gifted youngsters, who then are often placed in special sports schools. Parents virtually give over their sons and daughter to the coaches at these schools.
Their willingness to do so grows out of a desire to see their children enjoy a better life, for top athletes are bracketed into a bourgeoisie-like class that enjoys special attention and privileges. If nothing else, they are afforded the opportunity of international travel, while, as a whole, the nation chooses to keep to itself.
The way all this can pay off -- sometimes many years later -- is exemplified by figure skater Jan Hoffman, who competed in his first Olympics in 1968 at the age of 12 and finally won the silver medal here.
But the push to develop world class competitors is only part of the equation. Manfred Ewald, president of the powerful German Sports and Gymnastics Union, says this body "pays special attention to sports activities by the working people, trying to link sport closely with the working class."
Altogether, according to East German spokesman, more than 3 million members of the union are active athletically in 14,700 offshoot organizations. The supreme organ of this union is an annually convened Sports Congress, which brings together representatives of the different sports, districts, and factory clubs to take stock of the progress being made.It's this sort of centralized control that allows East Germany to monitor and improve the national effort.
In a sense, the country sneaked up on the rest of the world in the Winter Games. Luge, a sport most countries virtually ignore, became an East German forte. Between 1962 and 1979 they won 23 world and 20 Olympic titles in the event. This year's squad did not clean up quite as completely as in the past, but it still managed two gold medals and one silver.
In the bobsled, another sport popular in only a few countries, the GDR has also been dominant. Sleds driven by Meinhard Nehmer won both the two- and four-man events at Innsbruck. This year he repeated in the fourman sled, and although he was beaten by the Swiss in the two-man, the East Germans did even better overall with four medals -- one gold, one silver, and two brozes.
Nordic skiing and biathlon were other big events for the East Germans this year, accounting for nine of their medals including a third consecutive Olympic gold for Ulrich Wehling in the former competition and a gold and a silver for Frank Ullrich in the latter.
Although much of its success is accomplished in sports where the US is generally weak, East Germany has shown that it is not afraid to tackle the Americans where they are traditionally strong as well.
At Montreal, for example, the East German women swimmers sank the once dominant Americans. A great deal was made of the muscular, almost masculine, strength of some of these swimmers. Many Americans, in fact, have speculated that medical science is utilized to induce physical development among East German atheletes.
Such theories are difficult to verify. US female swimmers, however, have reasserted their dominance in the sport by lifting weights as their rivals have reportedly done.
In Winter Olympics, the country generally can match the Americans double axel for double axel in figure skating. Perhaps the first indication that it was a "comer" in this sport occured at grenoble, when Gabriele Seysert won the silver behind Peggy Fleming. A year later she captured the world championship, the first ever returned to the GDR.
Though seldom as artistically brilliant as other skaters, the East Germans tend to be masterful technicians. Thus they frequently build leads in the compulsary figures and short programs only to be overtaken in the free skating. That happened this year to Hoffmann, who lost first place to Great Britain's Robin Cousins, but Annet Potzsch finally broke the trend by skating well enough in the free program to maintain her lead over American Linda Fratianne for her country's first Olympic figure skating gold medal.
Though East Germany originally had just one artificially frozen ice rink, it has 14 today. By keeping skating club memberships inexpensive, broad-based participation is encouraged in both figure and speed skating.
The future looks bright in both sports.A majority of the country's 900 competitive figure skaters, many of whom were put on blades in nursery schools, are under 14. In speed skating, where the East Germans improved to four medals this year compared with one in 1976, the base is expected to grow when two new ovals open soon.
If there are new winter frontiers to conquer they are hockey and Alpine skiing. Despite the existence of 60 hockey clubs, the country did not even have a team here, nor has a single East German competed in the Alpine events since 1968.
The country obviously would rather not embarrass itself with poor showings, and it also apparently recognizes the danger of spreading itself too thin.
East Germany gives some of the credit for its emergence as a sports superpower to the Soviets. By supplying equipment, training facilities, and coaching assistance, the Soviets have helped put the GDR on its feet athletically. Now the two countries run neck and neck in the Olympics, obviously believing that success there will somehow show the world that theirs are superior social systems. Olympic results: event by event ALPINE SKIING Men's Downhill 1. Leonhard Stock (Austria) 2. Peter Wirnsberger (Austria) 3. Steve Podborski (Canada) Men's Giant Slalom 1. Ingermar Stenmark (Sweden) 2. Andreas Wenzel (Liechtenstein) 3. Hans Enn (Austria) Men's Slalom 1. Ingemar Stenmark (Sweden) 2. Phil Mahre (USA) 3. Jaques Luethy (Switzerland) Women's Downhill 1. Annemarie Moser-Proll (Austria) 2. Hanni Wenzel (Liechtenstein) 3. marie-Theres Nadig (Switzerland) Women's Giant Slalom 1. Hanni Wenzel (Liechtenstein) 2. Irene Epple (W. Germany) 3. Perrine Pelen (France) Women's Slalom 1. Hanni Wenzel (Liechtenstein) 2. Christa Kinshofer (W. Germany) 3. Erika Hess (Switzerland) NORDIC SKIING Men's 15 Kilometer Cross-Country 1. Thomas Wassberg (Sweden) 2. Juha Mieto (Finland) 3. Ove Aunli (Norway) men's 30 Kilometer Cross-Country 1. Nikolai Zimyatov (USSR) 2. vasili Rochev (USSR) 3. Ivan Lebanov (Bulgaria) Men's 50 Kilometer 1. Nikolai Zimyatov (USSR) 2. Juha Mieto (Finland) 3. Zlexandre Zavjalov (USSR) Men's 4x10km Cross-Country Relay 1. Soviet Union 2. Norway 3. Finland 70 Meter Ski Jump 1. Toni Innauer (Austria) 2. TIE:Hirokazu Yagi (Japan) 2. Manfred Deckert (E. Germany) 90 Meter Ski Jump 1. Jouko Tromanen (Finland) 3. Jari Puikkonen (Finland) Combined 1. Ulrich Wehling (E. Germany) 2. Jouko Karjalainen (Finland) 3. Konrad Winkler (E. Germany) Women's 5 Kilometer Cross-Country 1. Raisa Smetanina (USSR) 2. Hikka Riihivuori (Finland) 3. Keveta Jeriova (Czechoslovakia) Women's 10 Kilometer Cross-Country 1. Barbara Petzold (E. Germany) 2. Hikka Riihivuori (Finland) 3. Helena Takalo (Finland) Women's 4x5km Relay 1. East Germany 2. Soviet Union 3. Norway BIATHLON 10 Kilometer 1. Frank Ullrich (E. Germany) 2. Vladimir Aliken (USSR) 3. Anatoly Alabyev (USSR) 20 Kilometer 1. Anatoly Alabyev (USSR) 2. Frank Ullrich (E. Germany) 3. Eberhard Rosch (E. Germany) 4x7.5km Relay 1. Soviet Union 2. East Germany 3. West Germany FIGURE SKATING Paris 1. Irina Rodnina-Aleksandr Zaitsev (USSR) 2. Marina Cheresekova-Sergel Shakrai (USSR) 3. Manuela Mager-Uwe Bewersdorff (E. Germany) Ice Dancing 1. Natalia Linichuk-Gennadi Karponosov (USSR) 2. Krisztina Regozzy-Andras Sallay (Hun gary) 3. Irina Moiseeva-Andreiv Minenkov (USSR) Men's 1. Robin Cousins (Britain) 2. Jon Hoffman (E. Germany) 3. Charlie Tickner (USA) Women's 1. Annett Potzsch (E. Germany) 2. Linda Fratianne (USA) 3. Dagmar Lurz (W. Germany) SPEED SKATING Men's 500 Meter 1. Eric Heiden (USA) 2. Yevgeny Kullkov (USSR) 3. Liewe DeDoer (Netherlands) Men's 1,000 Meter 1. eric Heiden (USA) 2. Gaetan Boucher (Canada) 3. TIE: Frode Roenning (Norway) Vladimir Lobanov (USSR) Men's 1,500 Meter 1. Eric Heiden (USA) 2. Kai Arne Stenshjemmet (Norway) 3. Terje Anderson (Norway) Men's 5,000 Meter 1. Eric Heiden (USA) 2. Kai Arne Stenshjemmet (Norway) 3. Tom-Erik Oxholm (Norway) Men's 10,000 Meter 1. Eric Heiden (USA) 2. Piet Kleine (Netherlands) 3. Tom-Erik Oxholm (Norway) Women's 500 Meter 1. Karin Enke (E. Germany) 2. Leah Poulos-Mueller (USA) 3. Natalia Petruseva (USSR) Women's 1,000 Meter 1. Natalia Petruseva (USSR) 2. Leah Poulos-Mueller (USA) 3. Silvia Albrecht (E. Germany) Women's 1,500 Meter 1. Annie Borckink (Netherlands) 2. Ria Visser (Netherlands) 3. Sabina Becker (E. Germany) Women's 3,000 Meter 1. Bjoerg Eva Jensen (Norway) 2. Sabine Becker (E. Germany) 3. Beth Heiden (USA) LUGE Men's Singles 1. Bernhard Glass (E. Germany) 2. Paul Hildgartner (Italy) 3. Anton Winkler (W. Germany) Men's Doubles 1. East Germany 2. Italy 3. Austria Women's Singles 1. Vera Zozulya (USSR) 2. Melitta Sollmann (E. Germany) 3. Ingrida Amantova (USSR) BOBSLED Two Man 1. Switzerland 2. East Germany II 3. East Germany I Four Man 1. East Germany I 2. Switzerland i 3. East Germany II ICE HOCKEY 1. United States 2. Soviet Union 3. Sweden