These days, on March 20-23, the Winter Swimming World Championship is held in Rovaniemi with 1,244 swimmers from 34 countries. There has been huge preparations on the shore of river Kemijoki in the city center of Rovaniemi for several weeks already. The Finns are keen on winter swimming, so this event suits very well to take part in Finland this year.
In the ice on river Kemijoki there has been made a hole, 25 meters long with 9 lanes. The last few nights have been really cold with temperatures around -22 degrees Celsius (-7,6 F), and to keep the hole from freezing there have been pumps working days and nights. Around the “swimming stadium” pupils from the University of Lapland, the Faculty of Art and Design, have created sculptures fitting into the atmosphere of the Championships.
This snowman was constantly surrounded by excited visitors of the games, who wanted photos taken together with him for memories to bring home with them. It was hard to get a picture of him without any people. The mascot of Ranua zoo, Jonne the Polar bear, was of course also visiting this event and anyone, who wanted a hug from him, got one.
To get from the city center to the “swim stadium” you have to either walk the 850 meters along the Lumberjack Candle bridge, or take the snowmobile taxi arranged by Lapland safaris, that was driving non-stop between the city center and the stadium.
Today on the first day of the competitions the Endurance swim 450 meters for men and women took place. Here are the starting lists for those, who are interested. The swimmers were aged 50-69 years. A lot of brave people, if you ask me! To go into the ice-cold water with only your swimsuit on and then swim 450 meters is really an effort and it tests your body’s tolerance to 100 %. Except for the swimsuit swimmers must wear something on their head, either a swimming cap or a woolen or other warm hat.
The competitors undressed by the pool and climbed into the water. Diving was prohibited.
During the first run one of the competitors had a heart attack and divers had to bring him up from the water and they gave him first aid and an ambulance took him to the hospital for a check up. After this dramatic start the competition went on smoothly and swimmers who felt they wanted to end their run because they were not feeling well, were greeted by the audience and thanked with applauds for they braveness. No-one had to feel like a looser if he or she could not finish the run. All competitors are really experienced winter swimmers and all are winners and we all have our better or worse days.
After the race the swimmers could immediately go into the sauna or to the hot tubs near the pool. There were a lot of staff helping the swimmers to get a warm blanket and their shoes on. Many of the competitors really did not matter about the cold outside, even though the audience were trying to keep warm by jumping up and down. This day’s amazing sun-shine did help the audience to keep warm, though.
The area around the stadium has activities, product presentations and shopping possibilities as well as restaurant services and tourist information. The competitions continue tomorrow. The weather forecast are unfortunately not as good as they were today. Anyway, I think the arrangements around the IX Winter Swimming World Championship are really successful so far.