Thor Brings Battle Of The Nords To An Early Close

The scene was set. Blue skies, burning sun, green grass and a stadium in Singapore home for a day to one hundred and forty-three Norwegians and eighty-six Swedes.
        Once a year, representatives from the two Nordic nations summon their local strength in Singapore to compete in a friendly contest featuring running, jumping and soccer. This year the big day was March 18th at the Clementi Stadium.
        To make sure no one missed the fact that it was a Battle of the Nords, all of the competitors were kitted out in t-shirts explaining in full colour and text exactly who they supported and represented. But most of the competitors chose to overlook the fact that they were competitors, and instead used the day to meet old friends and make new friends. That in fact was exactly what the organizers, the Norwegian and Swedish churches had in mind when they planned the event.
        Switching off for a moment the public address microphone he uses to control the event, assistant port chaplain at Sjømannskirken, Trygve Synnevaag explains:
        “First and foremost it is meant to be a social gathering. There is of course also an element of competition, but it is a place where people meet – and it’s mainly done for “hyggens skyld”.

Since the Stone Age?
Trygve is for the second year in a row, the man pulling the strings behind the sports day. The competition is a ‘local’ tradition these days but there are serious doubts as to just how old the tradition actually is.
        “We have been doing this since the Stone Age,” says one competitor with a smile, while another says it has been running for just the last 10 years.
        “It is a tremendous tradition, and a lot older than ten years,” Trygve guesses.
        Apart from being a community tradition, the sports day is also the biggest source of income for the two churches, who must survive on donations and voluntary help.
        Under the blue Asian sky, the 250 Scandinavians start the games and first up are the children. But young as they may be, they go at it with no less than maximum enthusiasm. And the enthusiastic Swedish and Norwegian cheering filling the Singapore air, adds to the atmosphere and the intensity of this supposedly informal contest. At the end of the day, all of the results will be added together – both children and adults – and a winner will be announced. Last year Sweden took the glory. But this year Norway’s claim to the honours seems stronger as the two sides battle it out.
        “I of course hope for a Norwegian victory and we are already ahead because we got points for amassing the most people,” Norwegian Trygve smiles.

Novices make their mark 
Trond Erik and Birgitte are first timers at the sports day, having just arrived in September in Singapore where they work as an engineer and lawyer respectively.
          ”It is a nice way to get out and meet new people,” they say is their first reason for coming to the sports day.
          And the second?
          “We promised to participate as Norway was short of athletes,” Trond confides. Whoever made the two promise to turn up was well rewarded as Trond Erik was the final and winning runner in the Norwegian relay race team, and Birgitte helped the female relay team first across the line.
        Seeking shelter from the sun under the stadium roof, Max Johnson watches the games with his wife Christina and their two children – ten-year-old Louise and five-year-old – “soon to be six”  –  Daniel. They have been in Singapore for five years, and Max works for Tetra Pak.
        “It has become a family tradition for us to come here during the past three years. We mostly come for the sake of the children,” Johnson says, but adds that they have been looking forward to the games for quite a while.

Denmark next year?
The Norwegian and Swedish churches share the same building and it is therefore easy for them to coordinate the games, but Trygve won’t rule out an expansion of the games to accommodate the Danes.
        “It is a pretty good idea, but we have never considered it before. Not next year, but it is very possible eventually,” he grins.

Game of the games
As the day passes, clouds begin to appear as the main event of the day approaches. These are the soccer matches. For many, this event is much more important than the others, with a challenge cup at stake given to the winning team and displayed – carrying the flag of the winning nation – in the church for the next year.
        “The game has a high prestige for the adults and is, so-to-speak, a game within the games,” Trygve explains.
        But to make sure the soccer games are played fairly, a German referee has been called in. He however normally plays in a team with Norwegian players, so no-one could guarantee that he was entirely neutral. Nevertheless, everyone seemed happy with his efforts.

Norway win assured
But before the soccer game could be played, the points awarded thus far were counted, and they were not to be argued with. Norway was ahead 82 – 55, and even if the Swedish team did go on to dominate in the soccer games, the Norwegian win would not be affected.
        Nevertheless, the Swedes fought on and their women’s team brushed aside the Norwegian opposition.
        As the men continued battle, the clouds drew closer providing some much-needed and welcome shadow. A quick glance around the crowd revealed that several onlookers had changed from a typical Nordic white to a glowing lobster red!

Close to a draw
Applause greeted the kick-off as the whistle was blown for the game to get underway, and Sweden got off the mark quickly to forge ahead with the first goal. But their lead only lasted a few minutes and Norway soon set the score even. But then the inevitable happed. The patient cloud cover broke and began to unload showers as the heavens rumbled with thunder as Thor threw his hammer.
        The first half ended with a draw before rain stopped play. The second half was never played as Thor bombarded those below from the heavens with tropical waters to turn the field unplayable.
        Under the stadium roof however, Trygve and his waterproofed microphone, struggling to shout down the thunder, announced Norway the winners, with the soccer match ending in a tie.
        But none could match the powers of Thor, the uninvited God of Thunder who let everyone know he was there – invited or not!

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