Success in sports still important to Finns
Three out of four adults would like to see Finnish sportsmen and sportswomen do well on the international level
A recent national study - the fourth such undertaking - into attitudes towards top sports confirms the findings of its three predecessors.
A remarkably large number of Finns, 75 per cent of the adult population (19-65 years of age), considers success in international sports to be important. The top sports section of the nationwide study commissioned by Finland’s sports organisations was published in Helsinki on Wednesday.
The strongest expectations of success centre on a few events. On top of the list remain cross-country skiing (42 %) and athletics (38 %), the disciplines where Finland has traditionally reaped the most success. The older age groups, in particular, expect success in these events.
As far as ice hockey is concerned, 29 per cent of the Finnish adults hope for international success. For ski-jumping, another strong event, the corresponding percentage is 22.
Success in ice hockey appeals to the younger adults in particular. This became evident, for example, in the Olympic silver medal celebrations, which continued well into the night in Helsinki’s Kauppatori market square after the games in Torino last spring.
Notable success expectations also apply to football (12 %), motor sports (10 %), and alpine skiing (7%), which has increased in popularity quite markedly. The rise of the alpinists has presumably been in response to actual success in this field, while Finnish cross-country skiing (down by 5 %-points since 2001-2002) has been rather in the doldrums since the disastrous doping incident at the Lahti World Championships in 2001.
Of the Finnish adult population, 18 per cent feel that success in international sports is absolutely important, whereas 57 per cent regard it reasonably important. A majority of the 18% for whom sports acclaim seems to be a matter of life and death are men. This last finding could probably have been determined empirically in most families without any studies.
In the poll conducted by TNS Gallup, 5,500 Finns were interviewed over the telephone between February 2005 and January 2006. “A respondent’s professional position had little to do with the way he or she viewed success in sports”, points out TNS Gallup specialist Juhani Pehkonen.
The Sports Director of the Finnish Olympic Committee Kari Niemi-Nikkola sees in the results the strong national support that top sports have in Finland.
According to Niemi-Nikkola, the results of the poll will be taken into account when deciding on support for different disciplines, state subsidies to sports associations, and the endorsement policy of the Olympic Committee. “Efforts have to be made to maintain the so-called nationally important disciplines in the top international ranking”, Niemi-Nikkola outlines.
According to the poll, 56 per cent of the respondents, which translates to 1.8 million Finnish adults, visit a sports event at least once a year.
The following sports drew the most annual stadium spectators: ice hockey (840,000), football (550,000), athletics (349,000), cross-country skiing (213,000), Finnish-rules baseball (165,000), and motor sports (131,000).