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Getting dark in Austria

Open Letter by Felix Gottwald

I, Jutta Jerlich, am deeply ashamed of our country and as an Austrian I am angry, sad and constitution less at the same time.

Felix Gottwald, Salzburg record Olympic champion Nordic combined

To the Minister of Sport, Werner Kogler, Austria

I would like to inform you that I am resigning as Chairman of the Federal Sport Commission with immediate effect and am no longer available.

  • I have stepped up to make a contribution to a genuine culture of physical activity in our country.
  • I have stepped down to work together to increase the number of healthy years of life in our country.
  • And I started to create awareness among the population to better master the world we live in through exercise and sport.

After nine official months in this position, I can see that there may be a lot at stake in our country right now, but certainly not the health and well-being of Austrians and the people living in Austria – and this in the midst of the greatest health crisis.

Division, agitation, discrimination – these are the government commandments of the hour.

I am deeply ashamed of our country and as an Austrian I am angry, sad and stunned at the same time.

I have lost all trust in politics, and with the best will in the world I can no longer think of any arguments why I should believe a single syllable it says. The type of discourse within politics, the choice of words, the incongruity, the disdain that reaches me as a responsible citizen and taxpayer irritate me deeply and would probably drive any company in the private sector immediately to ruin.

As a demonstrably healthy person who is taking sensible and sensible measures to contain the pandemic in a very responsible way, I am now being excluded, like millions of others, from social life and thus also from sporting life. I have always taken and had to take responsibility as an athlete. Nothing has changed and nothing will change – regardless of pressure, any rules and regulations. I studied health sciences because all my life I have been concerned with how health – and not disease – is created. Sport and exercise are and will remain an essential part of the solution.

As Minister of Sport, you in particular would have the power to set levers in motion that promote, rather than prevent, exercise and (mass) sport in what is probably the biggest health crisis of our time.

  • How far are you willing to go?
  • And: How far are you willing to go as a government?

As Austria’s most successful Olympic athlete, I have lost very often and won very rarely. As an athlete, I learned to deal with defeats and failure, to learn from them, to develop further and to treat myself and others with respect and dignity. These are virtues that I feel are completely lacking in politics at the moment.

I was convinced that our country had learned from history.

I am shocked to find that as a society we have become more arrogant, unscrupulous and discriminatory than I have ever experienced before.

I want to live again in a country that we can be proud of, a country where we as a society foster a culture of being for one another. Decisions and actions that are characterized by understanding, understanding and trust are what I wish for with all my heart. The hope that it is never too late for this – regardless of external circumstances – and that today always remains the best time to start again, allows me to conclude by saying thank you. Thank you to all the members and the team of Bundes-Sport GmbH for the way I was received and for their efforts to help in the project of establishing a genuine culture of movement in our country. I failed – and that’s okay. Continuing on as if I am oblivious to the far from sporty and unhealthy developments surrounding this pandemic is not an option for me. I would also like to say thank you to all the individuals who are contributing in their own way and with their own abilities to ensure that we stick together and have understanding for each other and do not allow ourselves as a society to be further divided by this kind of politics, and that we will therefore overcome this crisis together and with different personal decisions and convictions.

Exercise and sport and plenty of fresh air will help us to do this and, quite incidentally, counteract a pandemic of our time – namely obesity and physical inactivity.

Personally, I will continue to do everything in my power to promote a genuine culture of movement in our country, knowing that such a culture must be built up persistently and must be independent of political actionism.

With concerned and moved greetings,

Felix Gottwald

Ramsau am Dachstein, 15. November 2021

Original German Version

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