Nothing sporting about this – Sauna championships

Competition is an inescapable part of life in Mumbai. World Gazetteer records Mumbai as the 2nd most populous city in the world and 5th when it comes to density of population. A disproportionate ratio of claimants to resources is how competition must have begun. Just watch a Mumbai suburban train pull into a train station and if you choose to be a spectator, which I do, it’s entertainment I would pay to watch. Hey! There’s an idea for you, ‘Live streaming of rush hour activity on Mumbai stations’. ESPN will certainly jump at this idea. If they can find a way to spin money off of pre-teen kids spelling words nobody cares about (Spelling Bee), then why not this?

Mumbai local train contest
Mumbai local trains – better than mountain climbing.

Rick Reilly, a columnist for ESPN The Magazine, participates in another arguably pointless competition – Sauna World Championship. Finland is a nation of 6 million people with 1.6 million registered saunas. These guys take their heat and humidity very seriously. There are only two logical parts to this story 1) The World Sauna Championships are held annually in the town of Heinola in Finland since 1999. 2) All the winners in it’s 12 year run have been Finnish nationals; this despite the fact that participants are attracted like moths to flames from 130 countries.

Rick shares his experience with us on ESPN The Magazine’s website (All links in Credits section). It is an extremely witty piece. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite.

\"I went over the rules. Competing in six-person heats — written without irony — the 84 contestants battle to see whose skin boils last. You may wear only a bathing suit that goes eight inches down the leg and absolutely nothing else. You can wipe sweat from your face but not your body. You cannot cover your ears with your hands. You may not lean over too far. Ambulances will be standing by. Good luck!"

2010 was the final edition of this competition. A Russian man, competing against the perennial champion Timo Kaukonen collapsed and died. Timo had to be hospitalized and could not go on to defend his crown. The organizer did not waste any time in calling curtains after that. Too bad, I would have loved to live to see this as an Olympic event. If rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming can make it, why not this?

I’d be interested to hear from experts on the concept of heaven and hell if there is a provision for requesting transfers to hell. Evidently, some of us may choose the impious option.

12th September, 2010. Mumbai.

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