The new viking legends of sports

The land of trolls, Björk, vikings, geysers and volcanoes. Yes, I was in Iceland. I picked it as my holiday destination this year, and I came back home just a couple of days ago. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to explore this very talked about yet mysterious country.

I spent a total of eight days travelling around the island, four of which I stayed in the capital, Reykjavik. I was totally mind blown, and not only because of the scenic beauty. We usually associate Iceland with its more natural features and peculiar landscape, but among its many other faces there is one we can’t ignore: its importance in terms of sports. Iceland has a population of only 360.000 people, but it’s a huge sports nation. As such, however, Iceland appeared on our radar fairly recently with their performance in the UEFA Euro 2016. The viking team beat England 2:1, and the broadcasting of the match was the highest TV rating ever noticed for one single country: of all the televisions that were on in Iceland during the event, only 0.2 percent were watching something else.

As you know by now, sports are pretty important for Icelanders -football, handball, basketball are the favorites-, and star athletes are often seen as national heroes. On my way to the north of the island I visited Akureyri, the country’s second largest city. According to Wikipedia and the proud locals, the “greatest sons of the city“ are athletes such as the famous football player Birkir Bjarnason and six handball players; Alfred Gislasson among them, who’s the current coach for the German handball national team.

Since most local players go abroad (license fees for sports leagues in Iceland are very low due to the small population), we often see many Icelandic names in teams like FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Bologna and FC Zürich. At the moment it’s clear to everyone that Icelandic football is having its moment of glory, and i

Sports and the Bauhaus: an unexpected connection 

I was at the Bauhaus Museum at Dessau last Saturday with a good friend from Barcelona. The way in which sports and arts intersect is a notion that has always fascinated me. Where do the first ones end, where do the others begin, and at which point of the performance do they become one and the same? You just have to look at disciplines like artistic gymnastics or synchronized swimming to get a sense of what I’m talking about. The Greeks spent a fair share of their time under the Mediterranean sun marveling at the wonders of the human body and its ability to create beautiful figures through movement. And as I found out last weekend, there was a group of artists - in more recent times and much closer to home - who were also captivated by the fusion of sports and beauty.

On 4th December of 1926, the industrial city of Dessau saw the opening ceremony of the Bauhaus building, which lasted two days. The Staatliches Bauhaus, the German art school whose vision was to combine aesthetics and functionality, had to leave its birthplace in Weimar due to political pressure from the rising NSDAP. Dessau was selected then as the new location for the school, and the film programme for the opening aimed at connecting images of acceleration and intensity with the aesthetics of fast-paced modernity.

At the opening, three short movies were shown: How do we live in a healthy and economic way?, The growth of crystals, and Nurmi, the world’s fastest man. This last one was interestingly shot in slow motion to convey a message of contradiction between image and reality. The Flying Finn, as they called him, Paavo Nurmi was a Finnish runner 8-times Olympic champion who dominated long distance running in the 1920s. I was at the Bauhaus Museum and I noticed that this footage had been replaced by a different one, Le Mile, shot in 1932 and featuring French runner Jules Ladoumégue, who broke a series of world records and even ousted Nurmi as the world’s fastest man.

Both footages, nevertheless, open a door for us to wonder about the link between sport, image, and art. What are your thoughts on this?