Monday, January 29, 2007

Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting in Sweden

Sweden, according to a piece in today's Libération, has just lifted its ban on professional boxing, which had been in force since 1969. A 'Comeback Gala' of eleven fights marked the return of the sport in Gothenberg on Saturday night. Boxing has long been a bête noir of middle-class lefties (but rarely of working-class ones) and Sweden has had it in for it for a long time: I remember, when visiting Stockholm's Olympic Stadium, venue for the 1912 games, reading that the boxing tournament was not held that year due to its illegality in the kingdom. Which obviously means that there was an interregnum of legality between then and 1969.

Pro boxing didn't go underground in Sweden, it merely moved across the Gulf of Bothnia to the Swedish-speaking Finnish island of Åland and it attracted a big following on satellite TV, numbering among its supporters former Prime Minister Göran Persson. Now only Norway, Iceland, Cuba and North Korea remain as countries where pro-boxing is forbidden (though of course the Cubans and the Koreans have little problem with the sport per se). Sweden is not going bananas in its tolerance of the sport though, the fights on Saturday night's card were all limited to four rounds of three minutes.