Two Sunday’s ago, Brigitte and I were a bit confused to hear lots of cheering outside fairly late in the evening. The odd drunken shout is not uncommon on a weekend, but this sounded like like a small army of cheerleaders – what was going on? This was going on… (click for here for some of the YouTube videos).
It turns out that we were hearing the sound of Kallio responding to Finland’s national ice hockey team trouncing Sweden 6 – 1 in the final of the World Championship. The Lions (as the team is known) had beaten Russia (old foes) on Friday evening and proceeded to humiliate their arch-rivals on Sunday evening – it was the equivalent of the Springboks beating Australia and then New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup. There were some serious celebrations that evening!
On the Monday the team flew back to Finland (the competition was held in Slovakia) escorted by two fighter jets. The team then had a bus tour through Helsinki, ending at the main market square. Since this is pretty much just down the street from us (a few kilometers, but still close) Brigitte and I headed into the city centre to experience the celebrations and enjoy the atmosphere. We only got as far as Senaatintori (about three city blocks from the market square), because there were just so many people crowding the streets – fortunately our timing was pretty good because we did see the team drive past, the golden championship cup polished to a shine.
Deciding that 100’000 boisterous sports fans were probably a bit more than we could handle, we didn’t stay too long, passing a long line of trams that were unable to pass through the crowded parts of the city – sorry for you if you were waiting for a tram on the other side of the square!
As with any big sporting event there were heroes and villians – it is easy to identify two from the newspapers, conversations and YouTube. Hero: the young Mikael Granlund who scored an amazing goal against Russia (watch it here). Fans can now even download a PDF-doll of him (here). And the villain (I think…): the Finnish goadkeeping coach Pasi Nurminen who was so drunk that he fell onto the trophy upon arriving back in Helsinki (if you want to see it, click here). His fall dented the championship cup – although it was soon revealed that it was just a replica (news here). The Helsingin Sanomat gives an interesting discussion of the celebrations – you can read it here.