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Fraport's team from the 2010 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge gathers for a picture (top photo). Fitness and sports are important at the busy ariport, which has its own fitness center (middle left photo), its own race ( for which runners warm up in lower middle photo), and its own training program, featuring a promotional poster with 2-time German Olympic champion Heike Drechsler (lower left photo). The company's commitment to fitness is reinfornced by the participation of Herbert Mai, executive board member and works director, in the Corporate Challenge (right photo).
Fitness flies high at Fraport as airport prepares
for 19th Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt
FRANKFURT, June 13, 2011 — The Germans have a word for the basic movements of sports such as running and walking — leichtathletik. On Wednesday, upwards of 72,000 participants from towns and cities across Germany will be a part of what has become a wildly popular occasion for leichtathletik — the 19th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt.
Fraport company captain Jens Chittka addresses his team at the 2010 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt.
In the crowd — as it has been since the event began on a much more modest scale in 1993 — will be the team from Fraport AG, the Frankfurt Airport.
“Back then (in 1993), we started with only a few runners,” said Jens Chittka, Fraport’s company caption. “By 2000, our team was averaging more than 200 members.”
Located in the heart of Germany at the intersection of two of the country’s famed autobahns, the Fraport is by no means a typical airport operation. It has, in fact, become Germany's largest employment complex at a single location, with more than 500 companies and organizations providing jobs for 71,000 people. Fraport AG and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies alone employed nearly 18,900 people at the end of 2010.
”We have all the elements of a city except permanent residents,” said Chittka. “However, compared to other small cities we have huge surges of people and traffic — every day we have an average of 150,000 passengers, thousands of visitors and workers, and about 1,400 aircraft taking off and landing, plus high-speed trains and regional trains. FRA is a very busy place on a 2,100 hectare piece of land in the heart of Germany and Europe, where people and various transportation networks meet. It’s like a small city, but like no other city on the planet!”
And, the company’s commitment to fitness and sports — which mirrors in many ways the passion with which Germany as a country embraces those activities — is as exceptional as any you could find in a small city.
This is a company with its own sports department that, in many ways, would rival programs at universities in the United States. Chittka took over the job of central administrator for the department in 2001, the same year he became company captain for Fraport’s Corporate Challenge team. He is a busy man.
”Fraport’s sports department has been supporting a wide range of employee sports and recreational activities for many years,” he said. “Actually, our support of company sports goes back to 1952 or almost 60 years! We have teams for badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling and motor cycling, football (soccer), golf, hiking, sky diving, skiing, tennis and table tennis, volleyball, and water sport.
Fraport runners look over a company refreshment area at the 2010 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt.
“We have one of the oldest and best established aikido clubs in all of Germany. We even have a team that completes in the annual Frankfurt Dragon Boat Race on the Main River. We also have clubs for chess and amateur radio. We operate the Fraport Sports Center, which is located at the CargoCity North area of Frankfurt Airport. Some of our teams even compete at the regional, national and European levels. We support youth recreational sports in the region and are one of the main corporate sponsors of the Frankfurt Eintracht Bundesliga professional soccer team.”
Fraport even organizes its own running event — Fraport Run, a 5/10-kilometer event usually held in the forests surrounding Frankfurt Airport.
“This year’s 10th Fraport Run will be unique because we will use the site of FRA’s new 2,800-meter-long Runway Northwest, which we recently completed and will inaugurate in October of this year,” said Chittka. “But once planes start landing here, we won’t get this chance again to run the runway! Along with Fraport, runners come from some of our subsidiary companies, plus Lufthansa and other airport partners.”
Why, Chittka was asked, is there such a passion for sport, including the record-setting participation in the Frankfurt Corporate Challenge, which each year becomes one of the world’s largest road races, a huge celebration of fitness, and a truly impressive post-race party that brings together Germany’s workforce in a festival of camaraderie fueled by beer and bratwurst.
”Of course, Germany is famous as a sporting nation. All types of sports are popular at all ages and stages of society — including the workplace,” Chittka said. “Germany’s focus on fitness has also grown, particularly in the last decade. Demographic trends — like the graying of society and the workforce — also make corporate sporting more important than ever. In general, companies in Germany have a long tradition of supporting education, training, social programs and sports and fitness.”
A poster for Fraport's 10th annual Fraport Run, part of the company's commitment to fitness.
For his team, the goals are modest, but the reasons for participating are critical, said Chittka, who launched a “Running for your Health” program and poster campaign to boost recruitment. He also relies heavily on Fraport’s huge SkyNet intranet service and other communications tools like employee magazines, newsletters and e-mail to get out the word about the Corporate Challenge to the company’s busy and spread out workforce.
“Our main motivation is fun and fitness,” he said. “We do not aim for a specific placing among the other teams. Our goal is simply to promote sports, health and team spirit.
“We feel that sports play an important part in the work-life balance. Supporting the Frankfurt Corporate Challenge is also part of our social responsibility to the region. We are one of the biggest employers in the region and we are proud to show what the staff of this “global mobility gateway” can do. Leichtathletik is the foundation of all body sports and movement and compensates for the work world that often has little physical activity — excluding our apron workers who do a lot of physical work on the job.”
It all comes together on Wednesday for Chittka’s team.
“The Challenge brings together a diverse group,” he said. “Members of our team come from all levels and divisions of the company: from our ground handling teams to administrative staff and senior managers, right up to the executive board level. Herbert Mai, our executive board member and works director, is a long-time runner and participant in the Challenge.”
“During the race,” Chittka added, “everyone shares the same common goal of running and getting tired legs. It’s great!”