Saturday, 25 August 2007

Schwingen - one of Switzerlands national sports

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Now what are those strange trousers in the picture and what do they have to do with something called Schwingen. It may be that some have heard of this strange Swiss sport. At the moment the annual national tournament is taking place in Aarau. Farmers sons, and other sorts, are competing to become the “Schwingkönig” (King) of 2007. Of course, you do get a prize if you achieve this title. Usually it comes in the shape of a bull, but not just a bull. A super bull fit to be father of many other cows, or perhaps just something for Sunday lunch. I think that the reason for so many farmers’ sons and farmers participating is that they have the room for the bull at home. I mean to say if my son took up Schwingen and was good at it, he would have to refuse the prize as we would not have the room or the possibility to look after a bull. But now to the beginnings of Schwingen.

It is something very historic in Switzerland and is to be treated as such. I mean Morris Dancers are also to be treated seriously in England. The sport takes place on a circular arena covered with sawdust. Perhaps it originated in the days of William Tell when the Swiss were busy building their chalets and had a lot of saw dust left from the building. In any case, to continue, the Schwingers (sounds good – meaning the men that actually participate) have to wear the jute trousers as shown in the photo, kept up by a belt. Now the actually idea of the sport is that 2 men meet on the sawdust. They grip each other on these trousers and by swinging on them should bring the opponent to the ground in the sawdust. When the opponent touches the ground with both shoulders he is defeated and the other wins. At the end of the match, the winner has to show good manners and wipes the sawdust from the opponents shoulders. I hope the following film explains all.

There are no weight classes, so the Schwinger has to hope that his opponent may be smaller or lighter in weight than himself. At the national Schwingfest (competition) they have to go through eight matches. The two players with the most points after seven rounds get to the final, and then the winner gets his cow.

This year is the first year that women have their own games. It did meet with some opposition from the men at first, but as the Swiss women did get the vote eventually in 1971 it was only right that 26 years later they can take part in the Schwing Festival.

Of course people do not only go to watch the competitions, but there is a lot of Swiss folklore going on in the background. Alp horn groups turn up and give a concert, processions of men dressed in national costume with big cow bells are to be seen and heard, walking in unison, and what would we Swiss be without our Yodelling groups. There is always a politician that usually makes a patriotic speech and we all clap and feel Swiss. To conclude this short explanation of Schwingen, follows a photo of one of the young men than won - with his bull of course.

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Oh, by the way, I won’t be going to the National Schwingfest in Aarau (competition). I don’t think it is my sort of thing.

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