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Festival Blast from the Past - Gone but not Forgotten

World Sauna Championships

Heinola, Finland

World Sauna Championships

Words by Paul Dodson

Only a country that lays claim to the origin of competitive air guitar and plays host to an annual wife carrying championships could seriously hope to pull off this event without as much as a snigger. Welcome to the World Sauna Championships yet another funky Finn festival from the craziest spirit in the Scandinavian cocktail.

Each August from 1999 the Finnish town of Heinola has hosted this most Scandinavian of events and not surprisingly, each year it has grown in popularity.

The competition's title probably gives the game away but for those who crave detail, here goes. Competitors must sit in a 110-degree sauna, while half a litre of water is added to the sauna's hot stones every 30 seconds. The winner is the person that remains seated the longest.

But there's a bit more to it than just this. The Finns take their saunaing seriously and have a range of rules to ensure that their competition is conducted in the true Scandi spirit of sauna. Amongst them, and I quote from the World Sauna Championships website here:

1. The competitors will have to sit in the sauna with buttocks and thighs on the seat. Posture must be erect; forearms must stay on the knees and arms have to be in an upright position. Touching skin with hand is forbidden.

2. Disturbing the other competitors in the sauna in any way is strictly forbidden.

So if you've always admired your tolerance for temperature, have the ability to sit motionless under adverse conditions and possess the self-control not to annoy your neighbour (however tempting), maybe you could wear the World Sauna Champion's crown. Be careful donning it though, it's probably going to need a good ten minutes to cool down.

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