Every weekday morning at the public pool in West Reykjavík (Vesturbæjarlaug), Halldór Bergmann – called Dóri – slips into his grey, square leg suit and declares that he shall swim 1,800 metres (1.1 miles). He is 68 years old, and, also, a great mangler of the truth. He swims only 200 metres (660 feet), on a good day, but does not like the facts getting in the way of a good time – and this may be his best quality: his penchant for childlike embellishment. It’s this trait, above any else, perhaps, that has won over a troop of loyal followers, and why those followers have, in the spirit of his own whimsy, taken to calling him “the Commander.”
In the latest episode of Deep North, we consider Icelandic swimming pool culture and ask: is the public swimming pool a wellspring of social democracy?