Five facts to know about Swiss wrestling

Five facts to know about Swiss wrestling

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Every three years Switzerland gears up for a wrestling festival of unparalleled proportions – and tickets are like gold dust. Get prepared for 'Schwingfest' 2016.

Now in its 44th edition, the Federal Wrestling and Alpine Games Festival, or ‘Schwingfest’ has been going since the end of the 19th century and attracts spectators from around Switzerland and abroad. With around 250,000 people expected over three days it's the country's biggest sporting event, but what's the draw to Switzerland's wrestling festival? How much do you know about the Swiss-style of wrestling known as Schwingen?

1. Gigantic

The Federal Wrestling Festival has a long tradition, having been organised for the first time in 1895. Since then, it has been held once every three years. The previous festival took place in 2013 in Burgdorf (canton Bern) and ended with the crowning of Matthias Sempach.

It has become a tradition to hold the festival in a French-speaking region of Switzerland once every 15 years. After La-Chaux-de-Fonds (Neuchâtel) in 1972, Sion (Valais) in 1986 and Nyon (Vaud) in 2001, canton Fribourg was chosen to host the 2016 competition, in Estavayer-le-Lac (Estavayer2016).

In fact, the event will be held in the grounds of the military air base in Payerne, around 7km from Estavayer, in canton Vaud. The city of Fribourg will hold an opening ceremony on Friday in place of the traditional folklore parade.

It’s no exaggeration to speak of the country’s 'largest sporting event'. The previous festival in Burgdorfdrew a record 300,000 spectators, and more than 250,000 are expected in Broye. A few statistics demonstrate the scale of the event: a budget of CHF 25 million (USD 26 million), 4,000 volunteers, festival grounds covering 90 hectares, and a campground with room for 20,000.

2. Ancestral games

Swiss wrestling is an ancient contest that has been around at least since the 13th Century. Originally the sport was practised only by farmers in Alpine areas. After practically disappearing, Swiss wrestling returned to popularity in the 19th century and became a Swiss national sport, in tandem with the development of patriotism in Switzerland.

In French the sport is called lutte à la culotte ('battle in shorts') due to the special shorts worn by the competitors. The battle takes place in a circular sawdust ring. The objec

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