Sport, speed and sweat in Finnish cities

Finland is famous for success in hockey, javelin and skiing, but urban sports are also popular. Check out our slideshow.

Finland is famous for success in ice hockey, javelin and skiing, but all kinds of urban sports are also popular. See our slideshow below.

The Finns have achieved international recognition in cross-country skiing, ice hockey, ski jumping, athletics, swimming and orienteering – many sports that could be described as traditional. However, Finland has not missed out on the rise of newer, urban sports – on the contrary. Many cities and towns have responded to young people’s requests by providing a place for them to practice new sports, and many skateparks, climbing walls and other recreation sites have sprung up.

Nonetheless, it is evidently more thrilling to hit the open city rather than an official practice spot. Rails and benches offer challenges to skateboarders, while glacial boulders beckon rock climbers. And urban sports aren’t limited to the capital, Helsinki. Further north, for instance, Jyväskylä and Lahti have gained a foothold as the most popular parkour cities in Finland. Don’t know what parkour is? Proceed straight to the slideshow below to find out.

Urban sports in motion in Finland

Urban acrobatics: Lauri shows how you can move without touching the ground outside Helsinki Central Railway Station. “The more urban the environment, the better it is for practising parkour,” he says. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Parkour attracts many curious passers-by. Although the jumps seem risky, Lauri says that parkour rarely causes any serious injuries. He also makes sure that his tricks do not damage the buildings. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Tuukka shows his parkour skills in Tampere at dusk. Parkour is easy to begin; all you need is a pair of good shoes, and suitable spots can be found in every town. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Finland is full of boulders and rocks suitable for climbing, like this one in Helsinki’s Taivaskallio neighbourhood. Maija says that bouldering is usually more about hanging out with friends than intensive training. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Bouldering is performed without ropes or harnesses – a climbing mat is placed below in case of falls, but climbers don’t venture higher than five metres. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Rock climbing is tough on the hands, and climbers end up with tough calluses. They use chalk to keep their hands dry and get a better grip. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Street basketball is a universal sport; these Chinese friends brought their skills with them from their home country. Ling sinks a difficult shot on the court near their student housing in Otaniemi, just west of Helsinki. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

The guys like to play basketball on summer evenings and enjoy the long-lasting daylight. Laughter and talk fill the air while the game is on. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

The game is speedy but not too serious. Here’s Zhong dribbling while Cheng looks on. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

In Finland the forests are never too distant from the urban atmosphere. Sebastian takes off in a skatepark in Kokkola. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Sebastian enjoys the free space and peace of skatepark by night. By the way, he landed this trick perfectly! Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Although there are many dedicated parks and halls for skateboarding in Helsinki, the square by Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art is still a popular spot. Tuomo approaches an unoccupied bench. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Alpo’s tireless practising is overlooked by the statue of Finnish military leader and president C.G.E. Mannerheim. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma

Flatland BMX routines beside Kiasma Museum formed one of the more sporty occasions on Night of the Arts in Helsinki. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma


Photos by Emilia Kangasluoma, August 2013
Text by Kasperi Teittinen