Hafnarfjörður Fire: Police Still Searching for Four Youths

The police in Hafnarfjörður are still looking for four youths in connection with the fire in Hafnarfjörður on Monday, RÚV reports. Results of the investigation into the origins of the fire are expected this afternoon.

A warehouse fire in Hafnarfjörður

On Monday evening, police received reports of a warehouse fire in Drafnarslippur, Hafnarfjörður. All available firefighters were subsequently dispatched to the scene. The fire spread from the warehouse building, which was empty, to an attached storage unit and burned its contents, which included tyres.

As previously noted, a few gas cylinders caused minor explosions inside the burning building, although a favourable wind direction blew the smoke out to sea, which limited the spread of the fire and smoke to nearby areas.

Following the event, the police announced that they were looking for four youths who were reportedly seen around the area at approximately 5 PM on the day of the fire. According to the announcement, one of the youths is believed to have long, red hair and another was riding a bicycle.

No tips as of yet

In an interview with Vísir, assistant superintendent Skúli Jónsson stated that the four individuals in question had not come forward and no tips had been received; the police had made no headway in their attempt to reach the young people. When asked if the young people were suspected of having something to do with the origin of the fire, Skúli stated that it was “impossible to say.”

“They were there around 5 PM, and the fire was noticed three and a half hours later. We’d simply like to talk to them,” Skúli told Vísir. He concluded by saying that the technical department of the police, which had been investigating the fire, had yet to reach a conclusion, although a clearer picture of events should emerge later today.

Minister of Justice: Iceland Not Exempt from Russian Espionage

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

The Minister of Justice says there is “no reason to believe that the Russians, and other dictatorial nations, are not engaged in espionage in Iceland, as elsewhere,” RÚV reports. The minister’s bill on the increased powers of the police has been submitted to Parliament, although there seems to be little interest in the establishment of an Icelandic intelligence service.

No basis yet for the establishment of an Icelandic intelligence service

Yesterday, Runólfur Þórhallsson, Deputy Superintendent of the National Commissioner’s Analytical Department, stated that it was “very likely that Russia and other dictatorial countries are conducting illegal intelligence gathering here in Iceland – as elsewhere.”

Runólfur observed that the Nordic countries had established special security services to investigate and work against illegal information gathering and to carry out supervision; in order to conduct such supervision in Iceland, a similar service needed to be established.

Addressing the subject in an interview with RÚV, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson stated that there was no reason to believe that Iceland was exempt from foreign espionage:

“There’s no reason to believe that we aren’t on the same boat as the Nordic countries in this regard, or when it comes to organised crime in general, for espionage is nothing more than an aspect of organised crime. On the other hand, however, there has, perhaps, not been a sound basis for establishing an intelligence service in Iceland akin to those of our neighbouring countries. This is why we’ve now been bolstering that arm of the police that deals with organised crime, and, thus, these matters being discussed, as best we can,” Jón Gunnarsson stated.

Childish to think that Iceland is exempt

Jón also stated that his bill on the increased powers of the police is being reviewed by Parliament. Current legal powers severely limit the police’s ability to counter espionage.

“This bill of mine has been somewhat controversial to some people, but it has progressed very modestly and is nothing close to what is customary with the intelligence services of our neighbouring countries. But, of course, it is just childish to think that we’re somehow exempt. We need to equip our police in such a way that they can at least work in full confidence and with the necessary authorisation required to collaborate with these neighbouring countries so as to inform them of these cases, and others, related to organised crime.”

When asked if he thought it was simply “a matter of time” that an intelligence service was established in Iceland, Jón remarked that we would “have to see how things developed.” Iceland relied on its allied nations, with whom it collaborated in matters of defence and within the political field – given that intelligent services in these nations were afforded a much greater authority than the police in Iceland.

Scant understanding for critical voices

“I’d like to reiterate that it is necessary for us to come to terms with the changes that have taken place around us in recent years. We must respond to these changes. The first step is to strengthen the police in this regard, that is, to afford our police the opportunity to be able to fully collaborate with the police of other countries.”

As RÚV notes, this is why Jón has a “scant understanding of the critical voices that have been heard regarding his bill.” In his opinion, it is crucial that these questions are dealt with in the spring. He added that his bill was meant to protect the security of the state and that espionage falls under that category.

From the Archive: The Ancient Art of Glíma

glíma wrestling iceland

From the archive: In this 1999 article from Iceland Review, Jón Ívarson delves into the history of Icelandic wrestling. Note that this archival content may not necessarily reflect the current editorial standards of Iceland Review.

The one truly Icelandic national sport is a type of wrestling known as glíma. After decades of neglect, glíma has been enjoying a major revival in popularity during recent years, especially among young people.

Wrestling has been practiced in Iceland ever since the country was settled, and there are early references to a form based on tricks performed with the legs and feet. The name “glíma” is first mentioned in the 12th century, and it is thought probable that the word means “the game of gladness.”

The most likely explanation of the origin of glíma seems to be that two types of wrestling, that of the “Eastmen” (Norwegians) which did not employ foot tricks, and that of the “Westmen” (Irish) which did, merged in Iceland to produce a new sport – glíma. Wrestling based on so-called “trouser-grips” was practiced for hundreds of years in Iceland and continued almost unchanged right up to this century. At the same time, however, other forms of wrestling were also in use: the so-called “loose-grips,” in which it was permitted to grip the opponent’s body more or less anywhere, and “back-spanning,” both of which often amounted to a mere trial of strength. It is worth noting that glíma-trained men would sometimes incorporate tricks from “back-spanning” if they could get away with them.

glíma wrestling iceland

More or less everything in Iceland was originally imported - our language, industry, occupations, sports - everything, that is, except glíma, which is wholly Icelandic. It seems quite miraculous that here in Iceland we should develop a form of wrestling which is based more on technique and artistry than on energy, weight and strength as is the case with most other types of wrestling in the world. Glíma is one of 112 recognised types of national wrestling throughout the world.

Glíma wrestlers keep a firm grasp on a harness which is fastened around each contestant’s waist and thighs. No other grips are permitted. Tricks are then applied with the feet, and the body is employed with bends, jerks and swings to upset the opponent’s balance and knock him to the ground, a fall marking the end of the contest.

A picturesque sport

Foreigners who watch glíma wrestling are without exception struck by its lightness, and many people find it a picturesque sport. Our neighbors, the Norwegians and Danes, once had their own traditional wrestling sports, but these disappeared long ago, and in Sweden, the only remnant survives on the island of Gotland. These countries greatly envy the Icelanders their glíma. The English, Scots, and Bretons, on the other hand, have their own national wrestling styles that are enthusiastically maintained.

Right up until this century, glíma was a form of wrestling in which the contestants took a grip on each other’s clothes using so-called “trouser-grips.” The trousers of glíma heroes had to suffer a great deal of wear and tear before people came up with the idea of gripping-straps, which subsequently developed into a special harness used in Iceland since the first decade of this century.

In glíma the contestants must stand upright. In all other forms of wrestling contestants bend over as far as they can, their stance resembling a 90° angle, but bending is banned in glíma where it is considered a major fault.

During the last few centuries, glíma was practiced in schools, at fishing camps, and as a recreation on festive occasions, such as wedding feasts. People also used to enjoy a match or two after church. The usual practice was for contestants to be divided into two groups for team-wrestling (lit. “farmers’ wrestling”), a form which was especially common in temporary fishing camps where two crews would compete to defend the honor of their boats.

iceland glima wrestling

Symbol of nationalism

Shortly after the turn of the century, there was a great upsurge of national feeling among Iceland’s young people. Although still ruled by Denmark, the nation was beginning to find its feet again and was no longer content with its lack of freedom. One sign of this was the formation of youth societies in every district. These were highly nationalist in their sympathies and came to see glíma as a symbol of national revival and the struggle for independence.

Glíma is characterised by treading or stepping. Contestants take a special sequence of steps between bouts which cause them to move in a circle, keeping constantly in motion. An airy, circular movement which resembles the steps of a dancer, stepping serves the purpose of maintaining the sport’s lightness and creating openings for attack and defence. Competent stepping is an essential feature of good glíma.

Glíma has probably never been practiced as widely as it was during this period. In 1907, a wrestling competition was held on Thingvellir, the Parliament Plains, which was without doubt the most famous sporting event ever held in Iceland. It was known as the King’s glíma of 1907, as in that year Iceland was visited by the King of Denmark for only the second time in history. Glíma was the natural choice as representing the best, most nationalist display the Icelanders could put on for such an important head of state. Johannes Josefsson, the great champion from Akureyri in the north of Iceland, swore an please clean up this text by fixing the spacing and spelling:  oath to uphold the honour of the Northerners by remaining undefeated in the King’s glíma on Thingvellir plains, or never hold up his head again. The Icelandic nation went wild at this bold claim and glíma champions from the south of Iceland began to train for all they were worth to take the swaggering Northerner down a peg or two. For months no one talked of anything in Iceland but who would triumph in the King’s glíma. No national games or sporting event today has attracted anything like as much attention. In the event, Josefsson came third, and the story of the competition is related in many books, not least in Josefsson’s own highly entertaining biography Johannes of Borg. Josefsson later went abroad and became a famous circus-performer in America. Using glíma as the basis for his self-defence method, he took on everyone from boxers to knife-fighters and was victorious every time. Josefsson came home in 1927, so rich as a result of his shows that he was able to build Hotel Borg in Reykjavik largely out of his own pocket.

Glíma becomes a competitive sport

During these years, glíma changed from being a popular pastime, practised in a haphazard fashion according to the occasion, into being a competitive sport with strict regulations and official tournaments. People stopped ripping each other’s trousers and began instead to use the glíma harness. In 1906 the first Icelandic glíma championship was held. This tournament celebrated its 90th anniversary last year and is thus the oldest sports competition in the country. The “Grettir” Belt (named after one of the most famous wrestlers and saga heroes of ancient times) is the most magnificent and historically renowned prize in Icelandic sporting history and the title of “glíma king” has a special ring to it. Two other historic glíma competitions are Skjaldarglíma Armanns, named in honour of Reykjavik’s greatest wrestling champion, which has been going since 1908, and Skjaldarglíma Skarphedins which has been held in the south of Iceland since 1910.

glima wrestling in iceland

During the Second World War years, glíma was abandoned in many districts as a large number of people moved away from the countryside. Many went to Reykjavik, however, where wrestling continued to be practised vigorously. The greatest glíma champion in the country at that time was Gudmundur Agustsson, who some consider the best wrestler of the century. Agustsson was a glamorous figure and fine wrestler and there is no doubt that the attendance at glíma matches increased greatly when he took part, the increase being largely accounted for by female admirers.

On the rise

The rules of glíma were amended in 1966 to make the sport lighter and nimbler and to reduce the abuses or fouls which had always tended to blight the game. As part of this process the wrestlers’ canvas shoes were replaced with leather ones and adjustments were made to their harnesses.

It is not permitted to commit a foul in glíma. The attacker must keep his balance once the trick has been executed and must not fall on top of his opponent on the ground, as this would be considered a foul. The concept of a foul hardly exists in foreign forms of wrestling. In the opinion of the Glíma Association, these three factors combine to make glíma a particularly attractive spectator sport and it is therefore vital that we continue to honour them.

During the last decade, the age of glíma contestants has been lowered and women have at last been permitted to enter the arena. Teenagers are now allowed to wrestle but must do so on mattresses to avoid injury, and this has given good results. The main problem facing glíma is that few practise the sport and there are barely enough trainers to go round. The Glíma Association has reacted to this state of affairs with an energetic campaign to introduce the sport to elementary schools all over the country. This has proved successful and glíma is now practised in places where it had not been seen for decades, and the number of contestants in wrestling competitions, particularly in the younger categories, has dramatically increased. For example, in 1983 there were only 9 contestants for the Icelandic glíma championship in all age and weight categories while, in contrast, at the last Championship in 1997 there were 120 participants. This has led to increased optimism that glíma is on the way to enjoying a new heyday at the end of the century, reminiscent of its popularity in the early days of the youth society movement.

Increased Support for Vulnerable Youth on the Labour Market

Declaration of intent

The Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market has signed a declaration of intent for increased individualised support for young people in vulnerable positions. More than ISK 450 million ($3.3 million / €3 million) will be spent on the project over the coming three years.

To prevent the premature exit of youth with mental disorders

Yesterday, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market; Páll Ásgeir Guðmundsson, Head of Economics and Policy at the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise; Unnur Sverrisdóttir, Director of the Directorate of Labour; and Vigdís Jónsdóttir, Director of the VIRK Vocational Rehabilitation Fund, signed a declaration of intent for increased individualised support for young people in vulnerable positions. More than ISK 450 million ($3.3 million / €3 million) will be spent on the project over a three-year period.

As noted in a press release on the government’s website, the aim of the project is to prevent “the premature exit of young people with psychiatric disabilities from the labour market,” as well as to increase the social activity of young people who belong to the so-called NEET group, i.e. young people who are not currently enrolled in studies or vocational training and are not on the labour market.

A three-pronged plan

The plan calls for the Directorate of Labour to hire ten so-called “labour liaisons” (i.e. atvinnulífstengill), who will provide the group with individualised support in their search for employment. “This is an innovation in the labour market resources provided by the organisation,” the press release notes, with a total of ISK 150 million ($1.1 million / €999,000) to be spent per year for three years.

Furthermore, VIRK – which has been providing services in the field of employment connections since 2012 – will further increase its number of labour liaisons. “The service will be opened to more groups than before, which in turn will increase their opportunities significantly. VIRK’s contribution is in addition to the above financial contributions.”

Lastly, the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise will work to ensure the availability of jobs for young people in the service of labour liaisons. In addition, the organisation will “promote education in workplaces about the importance of facilitating the employment of individuals belonging to vulnerable groups.”

“Young job seekers in a vulnerable position are those who are most at risk of dropping out of the labour market for a longer or shorter period of time,” Unnur Sverrisdóttir, Director of the Directorate of Labour,  is quoted as saying. “It is our belief that this partnership will bring great results.”

Zelenskyy to Meet with Nordic Leaders in Helsinki

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Bjarni Benediktsson Sigurður Ingi Ráðherra

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy will be present at a one-day Nordic Summit in Helsinki today. During the summit, Zelenskyy will also attend bilateral meetings with the prime ministers of the four guest countries, including Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Discussing Russia’s “war of aggression in Ukraine”

Earlier this morning, the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland announced that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy would attend a one-day Nordic-Ukrainian summit, as hosted by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the president’s residence.

As noted by Mbl.is, Selenskyy’s arrival in Finland has been shrouded in secrecy, which has inspired extensive security measures in Helsinki. The summit will be attended by President Niinistö and President Zelenskyy, as well as Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson, Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen, and Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

As noted in the press release, the leaders will discuss “Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the Nordic countries’ continued support for Ukraine, the developments in Ukraine’s relationship with EU and NATO, and Ukraine’s initiative for a just peace. These official discussions will be followed by a joint press conference. The Nordic Prime ministers will also have bilateral meetings with President Zelenskyy.”

Finnish President Niinistö will have his first meeting with Zelensky before noon.

Finland’s first meeting with fellow nations as a NATO member

As noted by RÚV, the summit is noteworthy not only in light of Zelensky’s attendance – but also because Finland is now talking to its fellow nations for the first time as an official NATO member. Finland joined NATO on April 4, and with that the alliance’s border with Russia more than doubled.

Sweden remains the only attendee who remains outside NATO; Sweden applied for membership, alongside Finland, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Two weeks until the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavík

As previously reported, there are less than two weeks until the summit of the Council of Europe will be held in Reykjavík. It remains to be seen whether Zelenskyy will attend.

It’s also been about a month and a half since PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir, alongside Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, attended a meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. At the end of the visit, Katrín stated, among other things, that she had discussed what could be achieved with the summit in Reykjavík.