Glíma: Icelandic Wrestling Applies for UNESCO Status Skip to content
glíma Icelandic wrestling
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Glíma: Icelandic Wrestling Applies for UNESCO Status

Icelandic wrestling, known as glíma, could soon be on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, RÚV reports. The sport involves wrestlers gripping their opponent by the waist and attempting to throw them to the ground.

Glíma was brought to Iceland by Norwegian settlers. Though originally opponents held onto each other’s trousers, in 1905 a special belt or harness was introduced to the sport, allowing wrestlers to have a better grip on each other. The sport is known for emphasising technique over force and was featured in a demonstration at the 1912 Summer Olympics.

Guðmundur Stefán Gunnarsson teaches glíma in Njarðvík, Southwest Iceland. He is working to get the sport onto UNESCO’s official list of intangible cultural heritage. It recently reached the first milestone in that process, which is to be registered as Icelandic cultural heritage.

According to Guðmundur Stefán, the atmosphere of glíma is very positive and competitions are characterised by respect among athletes. Heiðrún Fjóla Pálsdóttir, an award-winning glíma competitor who teaches alongside Guðmundur, agrees. “There’s such incredibly good morale in Icelandic glíma. Everyone is friends and it’s always so much fun.”

More information about glíma is available in English on the website Lifandi hefðir (Living Traditions).

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