Arts / Finns ain’t what they used to be!

UK’s Thom “Wild Thing” Wilding in the qualifers of last year’s Air Guitar World Championships. Photo by Juuso Haarala

CANBERRA is going crazy this spring, and nowhere more so than at the Embassy of Finland, where the Finland Centenary Crazy Games will soon be getting underway.

Patriotic Finns are notoriously proud of having turned silly events into serious competitive sports, so it comes as no surprise to learn that the event will be featuring “crazy” Finnish sports such as wife carrying, hobbyhorse riding and N-oar-dic walking (Nordic walking with oars, of course).

“Finns have a stereotype of being hardworking, serious and introverted,” says deputy head of mission Antti Niemelä, “but people should not forget that despite this, they still have a slightly crazy sense of humour.”

You can say that again. The event, that celebrates 100 years of Finnish independence, will also feature Santa’s mailbox, with all letters being forwarded to Santa in Lapland, Finland; a “Futuro” house installation and a Finnish dog “breed stand”.

Giesela ”Gizzy Guitar” Visser, of NZ, in the qualifiers of last year’s Air Guitar World Championships. Photo by Juuso Haarala

Central to the weekend, which precedes a month-long series of centenary-related events, will be an evening “air guitar” contest held at the embassy’s grounds. After exhausting rounds of competition, 12 people will compete, but only one will be crowned champion.

This idiosyncratic art form sees performers pretending to play riffs and solos on an imaginary rock or heavy metal-style electric guitar – it’s nothing if not theatrical. Peace-loving Finnish humorists see it as a case of making “air, not war”.

Since 1996, Finland’s technology capital Oulu has since 1996 been home to the annual Air Guitar World Championships, which attract an exceptional array of international contestants. Australia and NZ have claimed second place three times and took first prize in 2004.

After all that showbiz adrenalin, Sunday will provide a more relaxed “Come ‘n’ Try Everything Finnish” event.

Ambassador of Finland Lars Backström will host guided tours of the state-of-the-art embassy building and staff will open its fabulous sauna to members of the public so Canberrans can experience Finnish culture, including its “crazy” sense of humour.

The Finland Centenary Crazy Games and Open Doors for Everything Finnish at the Embassy of Finland, 12 Darwin Avenue, Yarralumla, 10am-4pm and 7pm-9pm, September 23 and 10am-4pm, September 24. All welcome. Information and registration for to

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