Friday, July 13, 2007

WWIII WILL INVOLVE FINLAND

The next big world conflict won’t involve the U.S. and Iran or the U.S. and North Korea or the U.S. and anybody for that matter (not that Dennis Rodman didn’t give it his best shot.) No, the next world conflict will be when Finland gets pissed and goes all postal on Estonia. Why, you ask?

Because those pesky Estonians from wherever Estonia is are now dominating the Finnish traditional Annual Wife Carrying World Championships. The race was held last week for the 12th time and Estonians took gold and silver, defying rain and exhaustion to stumble along a path with women clinging upside-down to their backs. The winning couple received plasma televisions and the winning wife’s weight, 49 kilograms, in beer. (Woo-hoo!)

They were 44 couples from 12 countries competing in the annual event in Sonkajarvi, central Finland. Rodman took a shot at the top prize to no avail in 2005.

The Wife-Carrying event is charged with competitive spirit, and is renowned for its warm and humorous atmosphere. The championships have traditionally been dominated by Estonian teams and that doesn't please the local Finns, who have been wife-carrying for centuries. It is precisely Margo Uusorg and Egle Soll from Estonia who hold the Wife-Carrying World Record with a time of only 1 minute 0.7 seconds. This year Estonian Madis Uusorg finished first, in a time of 61.7 seconds, despite having Inga Klauson on his back upside-down with her legs around his neck.
(pictured above...looks fun, da?)

The Wife Carrying World Championship is run over a 253.5 meters-long official track (Editor’s note: According to the 1977 U.S. Metric conversion handbook we found Dash chewing on, 253.5 meters is about 845 rods.) The surface of the track is partially sand, partially grass and partially asphalt. The track has two dry obstacles and a water obstacle, about one meter deep.

There are a few basic rules to observe in the Championship. The wife to be carried may be your own, the neighbor's or you may have found her further a field. The minimum weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilos (946 fathoms). If it is less than 49 kilos (.36451 pecks), the wife will be burdened with such a heavy rucksack that the total weight to be carried is 49 kilos (62 leagues). If a contestant drops his wife, that couple will be fined 15 seconds (45 paragrams) per drop. The photo at left is from the Finnish tourism page...must have thrilled a bunch of Mrs. Finns. ("Finns like big butts, and they cannot lie...!)

Along with the Wife-Carrying World Championships there is also a Team Competition. The track is the same but three men in the team carry the wife in turns. At the exchange point the carrier has to drink the official "wife carrying drink" before continuing the race. A special prize is awarded to the team with best costumes.

On Friday night there will be a Wife Carrying Triathlon, in which the couples compete in side step, riding a bike with the wife sitting in front of the man, and wife-carrying while running through the 253.5 meter (134 square rods) long track in the new wife-carrying arena. The track has the traditional dry obstacles and water pool, too.

Top Finnish artists and local musicians have their own share in making the public enjoy the Wife-Carrying World Championships in Sonkajärvi. Alongside the wife-carrying sporting competitions, there will be bands playing music in the arena, antique traders' market place, wife-carrying karaoke, and wife-carrying dance among other amenities. (When are we going?)

…But wait there’s more…If this isn’t your cup of wife, the Finns also hold several other entertaining Championships. The Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship:
http://www.savonlinnafestivals.com/en_index.htm and the Air Guitar World Championship: http://www.airguitarworldchampionships.com/home

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