“Brännboll”. How would one explain the most common recreational sport activity during summer time to a newcomer? “Burn ball”? Being brought up in Sweden, where sports is a common ice-breaker in social settings, “brännboll” is a part of my strongest childhood memories, as goes for many Swedes, I guess. The combination of running on green grass in the summer sun, and trying to score points by hitting the bat similar to the American sport softball, comprises the Swedish idea of putting your body to work in an untouched natural environment. This is our very definition of having a good time.
In regard to other seasonal sports, no Swede or anyone being brought up in Sweden can hardly forget the cross country skiing races or the orienteering competitions being a natural and mandatory part of the PE classes. Hardly no one, Swede or anyone being a bit acquainted with Swedish culture would argue against that fact that Swedes in general are sporty, and see hostile weather conditions as just another challenging factors. Serving as a telling example, about 20 percent of the Swedish population are members of a sports club. This fact is quite impressive, in my opinion but there is something more intriguing in regard to sport in Sweden, namely the constant presence of nature and the notion of being outside.
The combination of sport and nature is a natural thing is Sweden, with a tradition of centralised events partly dating back to around 100 years ago. To be more specific, in 1892, the Association for the Promotion of Outdoor Life (Friluftsfrämjandet) was formed – officially, to promote skiing, but with a deeper purpose of creating a Swedish self-image where the natural landscape would provide the framework. Later. the association broadened its focus through various articles enticing people into the wilderness, and now, it has around 82,000 members, who all embrace the romantic relationship to the outdoors.
In addition to this, Sweden is the country in the world that has won most medals in orienteering championships throughout the modern history. Perhaps not because we are the best, but because there is no other nation where there are so many people feeling inspired with the prospect of running through difficult terrain in order to show they are able to read maps. This starts early, with PE teachers In Swedish schools and pre-school drilling their students in these two sports, from the moment they are able to walk. For the less physically active, there is the light version of tipspromenad – the concept is that you partake in a quiz whilst walking along in the forest following ribbons to find the next question.
Dwelling on the aspect of nature and sport as being intertwined, nowadays Sweden’s on-going and increased obsession by running outdoors despite shivering cold in January, grey and rainy days in March and dampness in October, is a real proof that we love to exercise outdoors and in nature. This can be compared to my days as a graduate student in the US where everyone went for a run indoors in the gym despite the good and suitable weather. So it is not only trend of exercise and sports; it is also a love to, or a strong interest in, being surrounded by nature.
Oh, the fun of running up a hill in freezing cold and snow. Co-founder Djina high on endorphines.
Sport in Sweden is really a nature/al thing!
© Djina Wilk, 2016