Public viewing: Watching sporting events with others is more fun!
It all started with the 2006 Football World Cup tournament, when Germany’s town squares, sporting arenas and even the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin became meeting places for tens of thousands of sports fans, all eager to watch live broadcasts of the matches on giant screens, particularly those involving the German team.
Since then, this phenomenon has become an established part of German life, so that in addition to major sporting contests, events such as the Eurovision Song Contest are also viewed in public. Germans quickly found a name for this new trend: ‘public viewing’, a moniker that is both contemporary and international, but which actually denotes a rather different activity in American English, namely paying respects to a recently deceased person prior to burial.
It all started at the 2006 Football World Cup
When the Football World Cup was held in Germany in 2006, it quickly became clear that demand among German football fans for tickets to this unique sporting event would outstrip supply. So many cities, towns and villages set up big screens to enable informal audiences – often numbering several thousand – to watch live broadcasts of the games free of charge. This innovative type of event was labelled ‘public viewing’, and before long such communal enjoyment of sport had attracted imitators. Sporting events began to be broadcasted in bars, multipurpose halls and at the major sporting arenas – although the primary aim became a commercial one, since admission generally involved a fee.
For this new type of communal event the Germans also created the term ‘Rudelgucken’ as a way of circumventing the Anglicism ‘public viewing’. An agency in Magdeburg even had ‘public viewing’ registered at the patent office, albeit in conjunction with its own logo. So the term ‘public viewing’ can still be used without the need to pay for the right.
Public viewing beyond sporting events
Germans found the collective experience of watching sporting events with others such fun that public viewing now exists also for many other types of events, although often on a smaller scale. The annual staging of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), for example, increasingly attracts sizeable groups of followers. When the ESC was held in Düsseldorf in 2011, over 5,000 fans gathered to watch the event on a big screen on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn.
Bars and restaurants have even become regular meeting places for fans to watch and discuss cult German TV programmes such as the crime series Tatort or the soap opera Lindenstraße.
What is the attraction of ‘Rudelgucken’?
Public viewing is an excellent alternative for all those who are unable to attend a sporting event or concert live because tickets are otherwise too expensive or unavailable. Judging by the images of the fan zone at the Brandenburg Gate, one could be forgiven for thinking the crowds are watching the match live at the stadium. Offering (almost) identical levels of excitement and atmosphere, there is clearly no question that being part of the live broadcast of a sporting event or concert is fun!
But there is also another reason. In a recent interview, sports psychologist Prof. Dr. Jens Kleinert of the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Cologne says that identification with other fans and the collective cheering for a team gives audiences a positive self-image. By attending public viewing events and sharing in the excitement they generate, one is ‘somehow’ participating personally in the success.
Public viewing also has its downsides
But with such crowds present and emotions running high, problems can also develop quickly. Following disturbances in June 2012, for example, the management at a major events hall in Cologne decided to cancel further public viewings of the EURO 2012 Football Championships. A few troublemakers set off fireworks inside the closed space and started fighting with stewards. Naturally, problems are exacerbated at commercial live broadcasts, where alcohol is often served in liberal quantities.
Nevertheless, anyone who has watched a joyful crowd cheering for a team or favourite singer recognises that public viewing events are not about to lose their place as a regular form of entertainment in Germany.
Discussion in our Community
How do people follow major sporting events in your home country? Do you also have live public broadcasts, or do most people watch games or concerts at the stadium or at home with their families? Do such sporting events have a special name? Have you ever been to a large public viewing event in Germany? Why not tell us about it in the ‘Sport & Integration’ group in the Community section of the Alumniportal Deutschland!