Segway Polo World Cup comes to Stockholm

Whilst most sports fans may be paying closer attention to the European football championships or the upcoming London Olympics, Stockholm boasts its own prestigious world sporting event this week with the Segway polo World Cup.

Segway Polo World Cup comes to Stockholm

The seventh annual competition pits the kings of Segway skills from all over the world against one another, with the final due to be held at Zinkensdamm IP on June 10th.

Stockholm Segway Polo Club Chairman Alexander van Riesen was in a buoyant mood with the tournament in full flow. He gave the low-down on what exactly spectators can expect from the biggest showcase on the Segway polo calendar:

“Segway polo is a little like a combination between horse polo and ice hockey, but with five players on each team,” van Riesen told The Local.

“It’s a new, exciting, intense sport that everyone can enjoy and it’s very similar to other action sports.”

“This is the biggest Segway polo championships there have been, with 16 teams from across the world, including Austria, Lebanon and Finland, competing for the title.”

Both men and women can compete on the same team in the sport, and indeed females have just as much ability to succeed in the Segway polo arena, particularly because every vehicle that is being used by competitors travels at the same speed.

“Moving on devices that can travel at a maximum of 20 km per hour means females can be equally as talented as the men. You need to be at one with the Segway, dynamic and have good tactical awareness to succeed on the pitch,” van Riesen said.

“It’s a little bit like squash in a sense, as you have to react to lightning quick ball movements and you need to be aware and on top of your game at all times.”

“There is a gentlemanly code of conduct and though incidents do occur, Segway polo is a relatively safe sport to take part in.”

Sweden will be proudly represented at the competition by three sides from the Stockholm Segway polo Club – Stockholm Saints, Stockholm Vikings and Blue Saints. Organisers are hoping that hosting the tournament will provide a platform for Segway polo to develop its growing popularity in Scandinavia.

Stockholm submitted their bid to host the championships last year. The event coincides with the celebration of 100 years since the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, and this was something bosses were looking to target, according to van Riesen.

“The host used to be decided in a Eurovision-type style with the winner hosting the following year’s tournament, but this was scrapped a couple of years ago.”

“We applied to host this year’s championships to celebrate 100 years since the Stockholm Olympics – the most well-organised and best prepared Olympics there was. We are looking to replicate this in the organisation and running of the World Segway Championships.”

Van Riesen remains confident about the chances of the teams from Stockholm, but insists that hosting and organising a masterpiece sporting event is the top priority.

“Our first and primary goal is to organise a world-class event and for all the competitors to enjoy being in Stockholm. The aim for our teams, though, is to come in the top three. The two sides from Germany will be the ones to watch and are the top seeds, but as in any sport, every team can upset the odds.”

The Segway was first developed in 2001, and operates through the shift of the driver’s weight on the standing platform’s centre of mass. When it was first launched, engineers lauded the device as a future revolution in city transportation.

Last year’s competition in Falsom, California, saw Solingen Blade Pirates emerge victorious in a 1-0 victory in the final over Barbados Flyin’ Fish.

Joe Lynskey

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Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”