Saturday, March 15, 2008
"Bandy, bandy (la la, spela bandy)"
The title of today's post should be sung to the opening line of "Monday, Monday" by The Mamas and the Papas (where spela means "play"). It's a sort of in-joke here, to sing a song about bandy (which has the reputation of being an old-fashioned sort of sport) to the tune of a popular, kind-of-hippie song. And the title therefore neatly covers the two big events of the day.
First of all, Uppsala hosted the country-wide finals of the bandy season, for both the women's and men's club teams. We had thought about going, but it had been long and tiring week for both of us, and the prospect of paying a total of 800 SEK for the privilege of standing in the cold for 6 hours was not especially appealing.
We still got to enjoy a bit of the festival atmosphere, though, as fans started parading through the streets, singing and drumming, around 10am, and then later, between the men's a women's finals, a much larger crowd went by on their way to the stadium, strung out of blocks and stopping traffic in all directions. At one point they released a bunch of blue and yellow balloons, which we live close enough to the stadium to see once they flew above the building.
The women's final was at 11am, and featured AIK (a famous team from Stockholm) vs IFK Nässjö (from, err, Nässjö, I think). AIK was heavily favored to win, and in fact did so 3-0, scoring all three goals in about the span of 4 minutes. The men's match featured Sandviken AIK (who we watched beat Hammarby last weekend in Stockholm) vs Edsbyn IF. I had thought Sandviken would be a shoe-in, because they really dominated the semifinal series with Hammarby, while Edsbyn just barely managed to get past their semi-final opponents Västerås. However, just 7:30 into the game, Edsbyn led 3-1, and went on to win 11-6. Shows what I know about bandy! The winners get golden helmets, as well as a somewhat silly looking trophy that I think is supposed to be a bandy ball and bandy sticks, but looks more like a walnut and chopsticks. As I write this it's now midnight, and bars are closing, so there are now revelers in the streets again, hooting and hollering.
The other big event of the day was Melodifestivalen, the Swedish finals of the schlager contest. Someone asked me at lunch yesterday about whether I was planning to watch "the great Swedish cultural tradition" this weekend; I thought they meant the bandy, but it turns out he meant this song contest, this same contest that was won many years ago by Abba, thereby launching their career. Tonight's finals would determine the contestant that Sweden will put up for the Eurovision competition, which will be held in Belgrade. So we watched most of it, being alternately amused and horrified by some of the contestants—at one point, Joe wondered aloud why someone had not set this one fellow, Christer Sjögren, on fire long ago, thereby putting him out of his misery, and saving us the pain of listening to him warble sickly-sweet sentimental songs about Europe.
The media had been making much of the coincidence this year of the bandy finals being on the same day as Melodifestivalen, and the local paper featured wise-acre quizzes to help you determine whether you were a bandy person or a schlager person. Not too surprisingly, from what little I could translate, I came out as a bandy person. But I must say that I got into Melodifestivalen enough to be incensed by some of the voting. The popular phone-in vote was done by region, and the populace of Gothenberg have much to answer for, for giving Christer Sjögren even a single point. Meanwhile, my favorite band, a sort of medieval-inspired rock band called Nordman came in sixth, while the tune I considered to be clearly the best radio-friendly piece of bubblegum dance pop, by a group called BWO, came in third. (Don't worry, you can read all about them at the Wikipedia "Melodifestivalen" link above!)
Oh, and I completely forgot to mention that, along with the general festive atmosphere in town today, we had a protest in the town square! Maybe a hundred people came marching up the pedestrian-only center of town, carrying banners and chanting "USA ut ur Irak" (I'll just let you guess what that means). But really, once you've chanted that a couple dozen times, there isn't much else to say, and the crowd sort of broke up and wandered off after a few minutes.