Sports in Sweden
Sweden is, despite us being only 9 million people, a very successful nation in international sports. The Swedish tennis players, Björn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg are known all over the world thanks to two decades of fantastic achievements.
In fact, Sweden ranks seventh in the Olympic medals table with a total of 550 medals, of which 170 gold. In recent years stars such as Jan-Ove Waldner, Ludmila Enquist, Peter Forsberg, Annika Sörenstam, Pernilla Wiberg and Fredrik Ljungberg have kept the Swedish colours flying high in international arenas.
The older generation will also remember Ingemar Johansson, the last European World Champion in professional heavy-weight boxing. They will also remember Gunder Hägg, who broke world records in middle distance running.
Looking at the world map one may be surprised that Sweden has warm summers and real winter only from the middle and further north. Sweden is really a country where almost any sport can be played, and sport is by far the most popular pastime in Sweden. The Swedish climate allows great summer, as well as winter, sports of all kinds.
The winter sports are very popular, especially skiing. Downhill ski areas are very common in the whole middle and northern part of the country. Cross-country is also part of the culture and Sweden hosts the largest cross-country race in the world - Vasaloppet - 90 km long, with over 12,000 participants every year.
Summer sports have great facilities all over the country. Sweden has over 360 golf courses, countless tennis courts and football fields. The largest sport, after jogging, is of course football. But Sweden has, along with the other Nordic countries, many active orienteerers. In fact orienteering is as large a movement as jogging in Sweden.
Though sports are important in the Swedish way of life, it is not as closely tied to the school system as for example in America. Sports are compulsory in school but organised sports exist only in clubs with no ties to the education system.
Despite the large numbers of sports at high levels, Sweden still does not have any professional leagues or series. But Sweden frequently hosts world championships. The 1912 Olympic Games and the 1958 Word Cup in Soccer are perhaps the most well known. Some of these events are held annually, such as the Stockholm Open in tennis, Swedish Open in golf and the Stockholm Marathon. The largest event in the world in 1995, was the World Championships in Athletics, in Göteborg
Ever since the beginning of the century, the interest for taking part in sports activities has grown, both in the number of participants concerned, as well as the accessibility of various sports. It is much thanks to the Federation for Company Sports that sports became that easy accessible to common people. The base for their organisation is that sports is for each and every member of society, and not solely for exercise. The company sports worked hard to, for example; get women upon a bicycle in the 50s, jogging for men and women of all ages in the 70s. Sweden was, just like many other western countries, caught by the international jogging wave during the late 70s and early 80s. Orienteering has also become a sport with well over 100,000 active runners. In the 80s it was also time for work-out and aerobics to enter the scene, as did body building. Sports in the 90s, in Sweden, is the most popular movement which attracts almost every Swede, including many adventure types of sports like; climbing, diving and rapids-shooting, to mention just a few.
In order to grasp how prosperous Swedish sports has been, and still is, it can be noted that the number of Swedish contestants in the Olympics who have won gold medals are no less than 170, of those 56 were taken in the winter Olympics. The different events are: gymnastics-88, sailing-30, skiing-25, Ice hockey-22, riding-22, shooting-20, wrestling-19, athletics-13, football-12, canoe-12, tug-of-war-11, swimming-10, modern pentathlon-8, bicycle-6, fencing-6, ice skating-5, figure-skating-3, walk-2, table-tennis-1 and ski-shooting 1.
The number of World Champions are also plentiful; two mixed titles in Badminton, 1985 as well as 1993; Bandy four titles in 1981, 1983, 1987, 1993 and 1995; Table-tennis twelve titles, all for men. Three of those are individual, Stellan Bengtsson, Jan Ove Waldner and Jörgen Person. Tug-of-war; six titles; Plane gliding; four titles. Wrestling 13 titles, Football; Sweden has been in nine finals and took silver in 1958, bronze in 1950, as well as in 1994; the UEFA cup went to IFK-Göteborg 1982 as well as 1987. Handball; four titles for men outdoors, and three titles indoors. They also took the title in the first European Championship held in 1994. Ice hockey six titles. Cross country Orienteering are gold.
Among individual achievements, mentions must be made of the following Swedish sportsmen;
Borg, Arne (1901-1987)The number of world records were held by this Swedish swimmer who, during the years 1921 to 1929 took many titles. He took the Olympic title in the 1,500 metres in 1928.
Fredriksson, Gert (born 1919)Fredriksson has the most individual Olympic gold-medals. He took all six of them in K-1; in 1,000 metres in 1948, 1952 and 1958. In K-1; in 10,000 metres in 1948 and 1956, and in K-2; in 1,000 metres in 1960. All in all, he managed to take eight Olympic medals, and seven gold in the World Championships.
Fundin, Ove (1933)Took five gold medals in the World Championships, and on those rare occasions when he did not take gold; he took either a silver or a bronze, medal, i.e., he took a medal in each and every race he entered. He additionally took six titles in team races.
Jernberg, Sixten (born 1929)Is the Olympic Champion in four games, and also won three silver, and two bronze medals in skiing. In addition he has no less than eight titles in the World Championships.
Kringstad, Annichen (born 1960)Has three titles from the World Championships in cross-country running.
Larsson, Gunnar (1951)Won the Olympic gold medal in the 400 metres medley with a margin of only 0,002 seconds. He additionally won the Olympic gold medal in the 200 metres medley. He also took the World Championship title in the 200 metres medley in 1973.
Is the only Swede who ever took a gold medal in high jump at a World Championship in athletics. He took his title in the high jump in 1987 when he was world record-holder, he also took a gold medal in the World Indoor championships in 1985.
Svahn, Gunde (1962)Is the most well merited cross-country skier ever as he holds eleven titles, whereas four of them is in the Olympics, and seven in the World Championships.
Swahn, Oscar Ghomer, (1847-1927)Who was the oldest participant ever in the Olympics, as he was close to 73 years of age, when he, in 1920, took the silver medal in the shooting competition.
World champion in tennis 1988. Mats Wilander was the youngest player ever to win a grand slam tournament when he, in 1982, defeated Guillermo Vilas in the French Open. He has seven Grand Slam titles in singles but also a doubles title in Wimbledon with Joakim Nyström. 1988 was a tremendous year for Wilander winning three of the Grand Slam tournaments and ranked no 1 in the World.
Profiles from the later half of the twentieth century with no need of further presentation are, for example; Ingemar Johansson, Anders Gärderud, Björn Borg, Ingemar Stenmark, Börje Salming, Thomas Ravelli, Gunde Svahn, Ulrika Knape, Lotta Neuman, Patrik Sjöberg, Jan-Ove Waldner, Björn Waldegård, and last but not least, Joakim Bonnier.
Few sportsmen have attracted the Swedish viewers as Ingemar Stenmark did. Whenever it was time for his downhill race, all of Sweden 'packed it in' to go see his performance on a TV screen nearby. In general though, sports programs on Swedish Television are well anchored in every Swedish home and these spectacles on show often come hand in hand with playing the Pools. However, it seems hard to get the Swede to attend the various events in their specific arenas, but, needless to say; the main events are excluded from such statements.
Photo 2, 3, 4, 6: Copyright © Kamerareportage
Photo 5: Peter Ahlbin
Useful information Quiz game Contents About... E-mail