Seriously Sporty SwedesSwedish Prime Minister Göran Persson summed it up rather nicely.
“Sweden may not be a big country, but we are a big sporting nation”.
For a country with just nine million inhabitants, Gorän’s right on the money. Sweden consistently produces elite sportsmen and women in seemingly every sport ever invented (except cricket – although if someone managed to explain the rules to them I’m sure they’d be world champions at that too).
If you wonder why such a small country can churn out such big sporting stars then you really need look no further than Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.
Yesterday I was travelling back up to Umeå when I walked through the airport’s Sky City area to find it has been has been transformed into a Winter Olympic ‘village’ complete with huge screen TV, ski simulation machines, a digital rock climbing wall and dozens of other sports-related activities for people of all ages.
There’s even a fully-stocked bar for would-be athletes like myself in need of some rigorous après ski training.
The place was overflowing with Swedes glued to the screen, cheering on their alpine sporting heroes and clapping each other on the back. It’s all hugely impressive and clearly underlines why this country is such a competitive colossal – Swedes take sport seriously.
Tonight, when the Swedish men’s ice hockey team played the Olympic quarter finals they delayed the daily children’s programmes until the match had finished. Over on the other channel they stayed on air to watch Anja Pärson slalom her way to a much deserved Olympic gold – not hesitating to push the nightly news back half an hour.
Planes have crashed into skyscrapers, tidal waves have swept through Asia, cartoons have been published in Denmark and never once has the news been moved from its sacred 6pm slot. Until a big-hearted chunk of a girl from Tärnaby took gold in Turin that is.
It just goes to show what sport really means to Swedes. They’re good at it because they take it seriously. In my book they deserve every medal, every award and every title they get.
If you’re reading this Tony Blair, you might want to put some of your Olympic Committee chums on the next flight out to Stockholm. They may learn just learn a thing or two.