Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Standing tall

Today is a pretty sad day here in Iceland. It is the fault of the Olympics. The rain pouring down from the hiding spot where it has been accumulating these past weeks is not helping much.

Handball is a team sport similar to football (soccer) if you switch hands and feet. In handball a hand is used to catch and throw the ball, opposed to football where the feet are used to propel the ball towards the opposing team’s goal. As you may have noticed both sports are aptly named, handball = hands + a ball, football = feet + a ball. Although, according to this logic it should be feetball. And handsball come to that. 

Handball is considered more exciting (no references will be offered for this statement) than football (feetball) as there is no lack of goals as is often the case in football (feetball). A regular game can tally up around fifty goals when both sides are counted.

Back to the sadness. In the last Olympics Iceland won the silver medal in handball. This is no mean feat. Winning a medal in a team sport for such a small country is really remarkable. In the London Olympics we were on our way to gold. We won all of our matches in the preliminaries (Sweden, Tunisia, Argentina, the UK and the current Olympic and world champions of France) but lost to Hungary in the quarterfinals and dropped out of the competition as a result. The disappointment was so thick that it was almost palpable. It is bad enough when unrealistic aspirations get squashed, when it happens to the realistic ones, the depressive feeling is smothering.
As the readers of this blog might have noticed I am not a great sports enthusiast. What I have as an example found most intruiging with the handball at the Olympics is that the Icelandic team seems to wear a different costume each time they play. I asked into this and apparently it has nothing to do with trying to confuse the opponent into thinking they are playing a toatlly different country as one might at first believe. Instead the team brought 3 different coloured costumes to the games to make sure they would never be playing against a team wearing the same colour as them. This would confuse both teams to the same degree so it is poor strategy. But after hearing this explanation I am still wondering, now I want to know how they find out which colour the opponent intends to don. This predicament reminds me of my younger days when every celebration or night out involved the female prelude of asking one's girlfriends "What are you gonna wear?" Maybe the coaches make such calls between themselves the day before the match.

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda -
Everyone here has their own version of why we lost to Hungary. The match was as close as they come, Iceland lost by one goal following two game time extensions and could have gone either way. The most common theory so far is that we lost because this guy or that guy watched the match. It is a common perception here that a game will be jinxed if you watch it being played out. I belong to this group and did not watch the match for this reason. Instead I watched tsunami footage on youtube - of which there is a lot.

The best theory I have heard has nothing to do with jinxes. It goes like this and I ask Dan to please skip this bit: Iceland played five games in the preliminaries, four of the first against really strong contenders, two of which are sure to make a showing at the award ceremony. Then came the fifth game against a pretty weak team – from the UK. This match, which Iceland won 41-24 ruined everything. According to my source this match mixed our players up, i.e. the Icelandic team became disoriented due to the UK’s lack of handball skills. And our players had not recuperated in time for the game against Hungary.

But despite the rain and despite our now subdued sporting ego we are really proud of our handball players. They could have won and that in itself counts for a lot.

And anyway, Iceland topped one line-up in the London Olympics. According to the Guardian the Icelandic delegation at the 2012 Olympics is the tallest of all delegations. The average height of our athletes, counting both male and female, is 1,90 m or 6 ft 3 in.

So we were best (highest) at something. Which, if it were a sport would be named: standing – Iceland is thus the unofficial 2012 Olympic champion at standing.     

Yrsa - Wednesday

P.S. I thought young Gabby Douglas' hair was beautiful.  If people are going to be mean about Olympic hair I would think London mayor Boris would have been a more appropriate candidate to pick on. Older and more jaded for one and secondly, well....the hair.


  1. I'm glad that Iceland was tops at something. You always make me smile.

  2. Thank you Lil! We have to rummage around for laurels when it comes to sports, sometimes these are found where others have yet to look.

  3. Hair, hair, dear Yrsa. I just love the way you turn adversity into lemonade! We should all be so inspired.