There are approximately two to three million saunas in Finland – with only 5,4 million inhabitants. Statistically two Finns share one sauna. For centuries the sauna has been a place of physical and spiritual cleansing and has become part oft the Finnish way of life.
Sports in general plays an important role in Finland. The latest study carried out by the EU about the role of physical exercises (2014) shows: The nordic countries are the most active in this respect. The majority of Swedes (70%), Danes (68%) and Finns (66%) do sports once a week and are above the average of other EU countries which is 41 % (European Commission 2014).
The number of sport facilities in Finland in relation to the number of its people is one oft he highest in the world, as almost every Finn has access to swimming pools, gyms and sports halls – which he (or she) uses about 300 million times every year. Sports facilities and sports clubs are generously funded by the Finnish government. Particularly the 80’s were characterized by many new buildings. During this period 9400 sports facilities were built in Finland.
Ice hockey is most attractive for spectators
Sports clubs are also in Finland the traditional basis for organized physical activities of children and young people. Altogether about 40 % of all girls and 50 % of all boys take part in activities offered by sports clubs and sports organizations (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2013).
Statistically football is the most popular activity including Futsal which is a type of indoor-football. The popularity of Futsal can be explained by the climatic conditions in Finland. While football is played in the open from April to September the indoor season of Futsal is in autumn and winter.
Ice hockey, however, is by far the most popular type of sport in Finland and is attracting most spectators. It is also played actively by young Finns more often than any other sport except for football and gymnastics. Altogether 101,000 young people play ice hockey, with 51,000 in clubs.
The popularity of ice hockey may also be due to the fact that Finland won five medals in the Olympic Winter Games between 1988 and 2010: two silver and three bronze medals.
Typical Finnish sports
In Finland health-oriented sports are very important. Among winter sports cross-country skiing is extremely popular but also other outdoor activities like walking, hiking and trekking.
Nordic Walking has been developed in Finland and has become very popular in many other countries. Nordic Walking itself is not new as it has been developed from a training method for skiers during summer time. Finland’s national sport is Pesäpallo which is related to the American baseball. It was developed by Lauri Pikhala in 1922 who had been in the USA for some time. The basic idea of the game is similar to baseball but the set of rules is quite complex. At schools the game is often played in a simple way (like the German „Brennball“).