Germany are set to send their smallest team to an Olympics since reunification and expect to finish below Britain in the medal table at London 2012, they have admitted at a press conference in Frankfurt attended by Sebastian Coe.

There will be approximately 380 athletes competing in 23 of 26 sporting disciplines, compared to 440 in Beijing four years ago.

German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) general secretary Michael Vepser said their target was to finish fifth in the medals table, while President Thomas Bach admitted he expected London 2012 to be "the toughest Olympic competition ever".

Germany won 16 gold, 10 silver and 15 bronze medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, and three of those gold medal winners - Britta Heidemann and Benjamin Kleibrink in fencing and Ole Bischof in judo - were among the first names announced for this year's event.

The size of Germany's team has been hit by the failure of its basketball, football, handball and water polo teams to qualify for London.

"Even if it is the smallest team since reunification [of Germany in 1990] it will be a strong one," said Vesper.

So far 85 team members - 48 men and 37 women - have been confirmed, with the rest due to be announced on June 25 and July 4.

"Under the motto 'We for Germany' our athletes will represent Germany in a likable and successful manner in the toughest Olympic competition ever," said Bach.

"The anticipation of London is growing.

"You have the feeling now it's really taking off."

China and the United States will compete for the first place in the medals table probably followed by Russia in the third place, Bach predicted.

He also added that  he believed Britain will take the fourth place in the medal tally.



Coe, a close friend of Bach's, the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who is expected to succeed Jacques Rogge as President next year, promised a great London 2012.

"There is an unprecedented appetite among elite level competitors around the world to get to London," he said.

Bach claimed that he has been expecting London to deliver a great Olympics since 2005 when, as the returning office for the IOC at the vote in Singapore, he knew the result before almost anybody else.

"This will be Games for the athletes, it is how Seb has always worked," he said.

Coe promised that he would do his best to make sure that happened.

"We both see the world through the eyes of the athletes," he said to Bach.

"This is what we both have always worked - the athlete must take centre stage."

-Duncan Mackay

Source: www.insidethegames.biz


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