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Bobsleigh beats Bayern in sports-mad Germany
Updated: 2006-02-27 16:30

CESANA, Italy, Feb 27 (Reuters) - What would you rather watch on television, a high-profile Champions League soccer game or women's bobsleigh?

The German viewers had that choice to make on February 21 and Sandra Kiriasis steering her Germany I sled to the Olympic gold medal attracted more of them than Bayern Munich drawing 1-1 with AC Milan.

A traditional powerhouse at Winter Olympics, Germany returned to the top of the medals table in Turin after finishing second to Norway in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

"We can be happy and proud," said German Olympic Committee president Klaus Steinbach. "We started well and finished strongly, our athletes showing great character."

It could be argued that Germany have failed to shine in the two showcase sports of the Games, Alpine skiing and figure skating, but they are quite happy destroying the opposition in events such as bobsleigh, where they claimed all three titles.

They were just as dominant in biathlon, winning plenty of medals including three golds from Michael Greis, and in luge, Sylke Otto leading a German clean sweep in the women's event.


Germany won 29 medals -- 11 of them gold, 12 silver and six bronze. Out of the last five Winter Games, they have headed the medals table three times and never finished lower than third.

So how do they do it?

Infrastructure, technology and history all play their part but the main reason for Germany's success is probably the country's true passion for winter sports.

"Getting better television ratings than football says it all," said German Thomas Bach, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee and a former Olympic fencing champion.

Bobsleigh, luge or ski jumping are regularly broadcast live on national television. They attract spectators and sponsors and their popularity encourage children to give them a try.

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