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The Kaljakellunta, or Beer Float down the Vantaa river, and right, competitors at the International Wife-Carrying Championships.The Finns have introduced a number of peculiar sports to the rest of the world.

THE Finnish folk can be eccentric; just look at the odd array of sports they have developed over the years. Many of them have spread outside Finland, and some have even developed world championships.

The Air Guitar World Championship Competition, which takes place in Oulu in late August, is pretty much what the name suggests: playing an invisible guitar as inspirationally and originally as possible. Criteria for scoring points include the form of dancing and a groovy appearance.

The competition has been organised since 1996 at the Oulu Music Video Festival, and it has advocated a message of peace from the start: someone playing the air guitar cannot and will not do anything bad. Special gloves for the players have been developed by the Science Centre Heureka and the School of Science and Technology, which can be utilised to track the movements of the player and transformed into actual music.

Wife carrying is a popular Finnish competition that involves a man, a woman and an obstacle course. The first male to carry the “wife” over the course is deemed the winner. Several types of carrying may come into play: piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder) or Estonian style, where the wife hangs upside down on the man’s shoulders.

The history of this sport is obscure, but a certain story tends to recur: a robber called Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen lived in the late 1800s with his gang of thieves in the woods, terrorising villages and stealing women and food from nearby. Apparently the men ran away with the women on their backs, and these women later became their wives.

Although many consider the sport a joke, competitors tend to take the competition very seriously, and an International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee determines the official rules of the game, which is practiced as far afield as the USA and Hong Kong. The best costume, most entertaining couple and the strongest carrier are awarded special prizes.

The Kaljakellunta, or Beer Float down the Vantaa river, and right, competitors at the International Wife-Carrying Championships.Curious tradition

One of the strangest sports around is the Kaljakellunta, where thousands of Finns descend the Vantaa or Kerava River on rubber boats and other floating devices while drinking beer. This is not a serious competition, but more of a curious tradition that is repeated each year in late July or early August.

The event has no official organiser, and the route taken each year is decided by users of Facebook and the IRC-gallery. This has been a problem in terms of cleaning-up after the event. Groups of volunteers have done most of the work in cleaning-up for the last few years.

Another curious competition is the mobile phone throwing that takes place in Savonlinna on 18 August. As Finland is known as the home country of mobile phones, this sport could only have been invented by the Finns. It combines the philosophy of recycling and fun, and also the thought of not being continuously reachable by phone.

The competition has three categories: freestyle, traditional and junior. In freestyle the contestant is awarded points for creativity and aesthetics on a scale of 4 to 10. The traditional kind involves an over the shoulder throw, where the distance achieved is crucial.

Contestants form teams of up to three persons. The belief that lighter phones fly better is not necessarily true; some believe that heavier ones are the way to go. The competition is organised by the Translation and Interpretation Company Fennolingua.

These are not nearly all of those worth taking a look at: swamp soccer, Wellington boot throwing, sitting on an ant’s nest, mosquito squashing and milking stool throwing are also, believe it or not, Finnish pastimes.

ANNIKA RAUTAKOURA
HELSINKI TIMES
L EHT IKUVA / TIMO JAAKONAHO / VESA MOILANEN

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