As he saw it, his beloved hometown still deserved an Olympian touch and Mackerodt, Germany’s Beach Meister of volleyball, set out to create just such an atmosphere. He reached out to BeachMajors CEO Hannes Jagerhofer and they agreed to hold a Major Series event in Hamburg in 2016.
That event, held at the Rothenbaum Stadium tennis center, was a hit. It had drama as the final tournament for the qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympics, the women’s final four was the same as it would be for the Olympics (including the eventual finalists) and most importantly, it had fans.
In 2017, the FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg was again carried by the draw of Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst (pictured below), the Hamburg hometown heroes.
Admittedly a little nervous over the Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals presented by Vodafone, as the event unfolded this past week Mackerodt’s smile grew wider by the day.
“And now it’s the first time Laura and Kira are not here, and we have had 73,000 people here,” Mackerodt said. “We never expected this. It was huge and Hamburg likes this and there is no German team (in the women’s finals) but it is packed. It’s great for Hamburg and it’s great for us.
Beach Volleyball fans lined up to watch action at the 2018 FIVB World Tour Finals at Rothenbaum Stadium.
“I’m very emotional. I was a player and this is my town. This is a very special event for me. I was crying on Saturday 10 times because there was a long rally and the public was outstanding cheering for both teams. It is for me a very emotional event here. From the beginning as I saw how many people were here on Wednesday, I knew we would have good public here for the next days.”
Or as Ludwig observed: “Even Mackerodt even couldn’t imagine that. I think he’s still dreaming about it. He’s standing there saying ‘Really, is this happening?’ It’s definitely a dream come true, the World Championships at home. Nobody in Germany would have expected that.”
Mackerodt, Jagerhofer, Hamburg and Beach Volleyball fans couldn’t have had a better advertisement for the 2019 FIVB World Championships, which will be held at Rothenbaum from June 28-July 7.
Anecdotally, every player asked about the city and the venue during the World Tour Finals was overwhelmingly supportive.
“Tens of thousands had a great time and they will talk the whole year round of how exciting it was,” Jagerhofer said. “If all of these people who have been here will come here next year and one or two of their friends will join, you can imagine what kind of crowd we’ll have to deal with.”
And that was with a mere 10 men’s teams and 10 women’s teams. It’s tough to calculate the potential of appreciation with a World Championship field of 96 teams. In the 2017 FIVB World Championships in Vienna, an estimated 180,000 fans streamed onto Donauinsel.
“Hamburg is completely crazy about Beach Volleyball now so what have seen here the last few days is awesome,” Jagerhofer said. “They love the sport, they’re fully behind and the World Championships will bring a huge, huge crowd.”