In 2020, I was approached by the publishers behind the respected Culture Smart series to see if I would write a book about Swedish culture. I accepted and, finally, it is here! I am proud to join their staff of authors! Available soon to buy on Amazon, or via me. Just pm me if you’d like a copy. Today’s a good day!!!
Today is International Table Tennis Day, or Ping Pong as it is also called – a name originating from the Mandarin Ping Pang Qiu. In Sweden, table tennis has the nickname ‘pingis’. Table tennis is a popular sport in Sweden, from sport centers, to community centers, offices, games rooms, and on an international level of competition. The game was first played in the 1890’s, with the first Swedish championship organised in 1925.
Although elite table tennis is dominated by the Chinese, Sweden has had some success over the years. Probably the best Swedish player through history is Jan-Ove Waldner. Known as ‘The Evergreen Tree’ in China, Waldner had an extraordinary successful and long career. He won a total of 20 Gold, 17 Silver and 9 Bronze medals in the Olympics, World and European Championships. Jörgen Persson, Kjell Johansson, Marie Svensson and Stellan Bengtsson are other successful ping pong athletes.
On a non-elite level, the game of ‘rundpingis’ is popular in Sweden. This is knock-out ping pong played in large groups where people run around the table and hit one shot each. Another popular pastime is outside table tennis, with many parks building tables and nets out of weather-proof iron.
So, today’s the day to grab a racket and play a round of table tennis. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next pingis star in pingis heaven!
Sometimes in the sporting world, the name of the sportsperson really suits the sport. I think this is kinda funny. Here’s a list of some sportspeople, Swedish and other, and their highly relevant names:
Johanna Skottheim – Swedish Biathlon skier (with skis and a gun). Skott means shot in Swedish.
Sara Sjöström – Swedish swimmer. Sjöström means lake stream
Timo Boll – German table tennis player. Boll means ball in Swedish.
Josh Beaver – Australian swimmer
Zhu Ting – A Chinese football player – pronounced ‘shoo-ting’
Nathan Leeper – an American high jumper
Jeffrey Float – an American swimmer
Anna Smashnova – a Russian tennis player
Tiger Woods – an American golfer – wood is a type of golf club
Usain Bolt – fastest man in the world, a bolt of lightning from Jamaica.
Pernilla Wiberg- Swedish Alpine skier. ’Berg’ means mountain in Swedish.
Can you think of any more to add to the list?
Today, the world’s longest cross country ski race takes place in Sweden. It was, this year, touch and go if it would actually happen, as there wasn’t much snow on the ground. But at 8.00 this morning the race began.
Called Vasaloppet, the race entails participants skiing 90 kilometers from start to finish. It’s an extremely popular international event, which can take up to 12 hours to complete, and which is broadcast live on tv. When tickets to participate are released, they sell out in 15 minutes – it’s that popular.
The first Vasalopp was in 1922 and it takes place annually, the first Sunday in March and it is a first sign of spring. It’s an amazing sight to watch, as more than 15000 mad, happy skiers glide along, the swishing sound of ski on snow filling the air. For the elite athletes, 12 hours to complete the race is of course unthinkable. They go considerably faster. The person who has completed the race fastest is Jörgen Brink, who in 2012 won the race in just over 3 hours 40 minutes, roughly 25 km per hour.
So why is this race called the Vasalopp? Well, it takes its name from a Swedish king. The race commemorates the escape to Norway, through the forest, of King Gustav Vasa in 1521. Legend has it that he carried out the gruelling journey on skis, but experts believe he more likely completed this escape on snow shoes. Nevertheless, out of this legend sprung the race which is so popular today.
Modern day skiers don’t see the experience as an escape, they see it as a challenge and for many of them it’s a rite of passage. And as you sit watching the TV comfortably from the sofa, under a duvet, with tea and toast, you take vicarious pleasure in this long, amazing Swedish race.
In the Swedish town of Östersund, the World Championships in biathlon is currently taking place. For the uninitiated of you, the biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. In Swedish, it is called ‘skidskytte’ – literally ‘ski shooting’. The sport is a race where the contestant with the shortest total time wins. Depending on the competition, missed shots result in extra distance or time being added to the contestant’s total.
The biathlon is an example of a hybrid sport – one which combines two or more sports in order to create a new sport. Waterpolo, which combines swimming and handball, is another example. Biathlon is the king of the hybrids as it is the only one to be recognised as an Olympic sport.
As usual, I got curious about what other hybrid sports exist. So I did some research. Here are some of the, according to me, funniest ones:
Bossaball – combines the many elements of volleyball, football, gymnastics and the Brazilian martial art Capoeira. Strangely, it is played on an inflatable field with 2 trampolines at each side of the net. These allow players per side to bounce high to spike or touch the ball.
Chess boxing – weirdly combines the sport of boxing with games of chess in alternating rounds. Chess boxing fights have been organized since early 2003.
Darchery – combines darts and archery, using crossbows and arrows typically used for archery, but the target is a dart board.
Footgolf – combines football with golf. Players kick a football into large holes placed around a golf course.
Headis – combines table tennis and football. Players use their heads to hit a football across the table tennis table and net. Sounds exhausting.
Kronum – combines handball, football, basketball and rugby played on a circular field with four goals at each end.
Octopush – combines swimming, diving and hockey. Players try to push around a hockey puck at the bottom of a swimming pool. The goal is to shoot the puck with a small, curved piece of wood into the opposing team’s goal.
Do you play any of these sports? Or do you play another hybrid sport? Let me know!
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Today, the world’s longest cross country ski race takes place in Sweden. Called Vasaloppet, it entails participants skiing 90 kilometers from start to finish. It’s an extremely popular international race, which can take up to 12 hours to complete, and which is broadcast live on tv. When tickets to participate are released, they sell out in 15 minutes – it’s that popular.
The first Vasalopp was in 1922 and it takes place annually, the first Sunday in March and it is a first sign of spring. It’s an amazing sight to watch, as more than 15000 mad, happy skiers glide along, the swishing sound of ski on snow filling the air.
For the elite athletes, 12 hours to complete the race is of course unthinkable. They go considerably faster. The person who has completed the race fastest is Jörgen Brink, who in 2012 won the race in just over 3 hours 40 minutes, roughly 25 km per hour.
So why is this race called the Vasalopp? Well, it takes its name from a Swedish king. The race commemorates the escape to Norway, through the forest, of King Gustav Vasa in 1521. Legend has it that he carried out the gruelling journey on skis, but experts believe he more likely completed this escape on snow shoes.
Nevertheless, out of this legend sprung the race which is so popular today.
Modern day skiers don’t see the experience as an escape, they see it as a challenge and for many of them it’s a rite of passage.
So, yesterday Sweden and England both qualified for the quarter finals in the football World Cup. Now they will meet each other and only one of them can go on to the semis. I’m not much of a football fan, but I do feel that I’m caught in a dilemma. Who do I support – the birth country that raised me or my adopted home country? I am a citizen of both, so that’s not an argument to fall back on.
5 reasons why I should support Sweden:
- There’s an election this year, and a lot of people are feeling negative, so a win for Sweden is a positive boost for the whole country
- Zlatan’s not playing so this shows the arrogant SOB that the team is good without him
- Sweden hasn’t got to the quarters since 1994, if I am correctly informed. So it’s about time. Also, they’ve never won the whole shebang
- Sweden has semlor cream buns, Jansson’s temptation, mmmmarabou, fried Baltic herring, princesstårta, västerbotten cheese pie and Småland cheesecake
- It’s good to show the world Sweden’s good at something else other than winning Eurovision
5 reasons why I should support England
- England invented football. Kind of. Or at least were the first to officially organize it into clubs in the 1800’s.
- With Brexit approaching, it’s good for England to beat the world
- England haven’t won the World Cup since 1966, so it’s well overdue
- England has Branston pickle, trifle, crumpets, fried breakfasts, PG Tips, sticky toffee pudding and cream eggs.
- England show they’re good at something and not just at making bad choices (Theresa May, Boris Johnson, UKIP etc)
So what a dilemma! Who should I back?
Any thoughts from you would be most helpful. Give me some reasons to support Team Sweden or Team England! You have until Saturday!
Many neighbouring countries around the world have had their fair share of conflict. Some countries are currently at war or teetering on the brink.
Thankfully, Sweden and the other Nordic countries have lived in peace with each other for centuries. However, Sweden and Finland still battle it out every year in an athletics competition between the two nations – the best type of neighbourly conflict. In Swedish, this is called ‘Finnkamp’ and in Finland it is called ‘Sverigekampen’. This year it is currently taking place in Stockholm.
The first Finnkamp took place in 1925 for men, and 1951 for women and it has taken olace every year, with a few exceptions for organisational disagreements and WWII. It is highly competitive, although friendly, and is a classic track and field event.
In total there have been78 annual competitions for the men and Finland leads 45-31 over Sweden. For the women, there have been 67 competitions and Sweden holds the lead at 41 to Finland’s 25. Let’s see how it ends up this year!
If you want to see the end of it, make your way down to Stadion in Stockholm today to catch the final events.
This week is Swedish Championship week. During these days, players gather in the same town to carry out the national competition in their particular sport. Not only is this cost-efficient but it puts the spotlight on many smaller sports. Much of the week is televised, and as a viewer you get the opportunity to watch popular, and less common sports. Sports such as ice sailing, frisbee, wheelchair floorball and snow scooter jumping take part in the week.
But my favorite has to be this one – dog pull skiing! Weirdly wonderful!