Olympics Dream Over for Iceland

The Iceland men’s national handball team saw its hopes for a berth at the 2024 Summer Olympics in France slip away last night. Despite beating Austria 26 to 24 in a pivotal game yesterday afternoon, an unfavourable result in another match meant that Iceland would not move on to the Olympics qualifiers in March.

Iceland’s team has not appeared in the Olympics since the 2012 London games. The team has historically been competitive on the international stage and handball remains very popular in Iceland. The team’s greatest success was the silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Victory in a must-win game

Iceland faced Austria in a must-win game yesterday, the last one of the main round. The team’s hopes of advancing to the knockout stage had already been dashed, but an important consolation prize loomed if everything went right; placement in the Olympics qualifiers.

Iceland saw its first half lead slip away in the second half as the offence stagnated. Scoreless for a 14 minutes stretch, Iceland was still able to secure the victory by two goals in the end. Both starting goalkeepers, Austria’s Constantin Möstl and Iceland’s Viktor Hallgrímsson, played superbly. Sigvaldi Björn Guðjónsson scored eight goals for Iceland and Aron Pálmarsson seven.

France too strong

With a victory in hand, Iceland’s team would need to wait for results from the match between France and Hungary. France had already secured a spot as one of the four teams to move on to the second round, while Hungary would stand a fighting chance with a win over France. A Hungary victory or a tie would have given Iceland a shot at the Olympics qualifiers. However, France proved too dominant and secured the victory.


Sailing Competitors Seek Safe Harbour in East Iceland

Twenty-three of the competitors in France’s Vendée Artique sailing competition are seeking shelter in Fákrúðsfjörður Bay in East Iceland due to dangerous weather conditions on the Atlantic Ocean, RÚV reports. This is the first time that skippers participating in the race were supposed to have crossed the Arctic Circle north of Iceland, but given the current weather conditions on the course, race organizers have elected to end the race in Fákrúðsfjörður.

Three of the skippers had already arrived in Fáskrúðsfjörður as of Friday night, with the rest expected in the early hours of Saturday morning. Roughly a third of the sailboats were known to have been damaged in the difficult weather on the way to Iceland, where the East Iceland Sailing Club was preparing to receive them.

Route designed to be difficult

Vendée Artique Course 2022

The newly-extended 3,500-nautical-mile Vendée Artique begins and ends in Les Sables d’Olonne in France and circumnavigates Iceland. It is the first qualifying race for the Vendée Globe, a single-handed, non-stop, round-the-world yacht race. As it is intended to help participating skippers test their boats and get a feel for the Vendée Globe, the course was designed to be difficult, with purposefully difficult weather conditions. Sailing from north to south “is a particular technical exercise,” explains the competition website, “requiring numerous manoeuvres and sail changes […] when rounding Iceland.”


Siglingaklúbbur Austurlands, FB

In its explanation for why the race was suspended, the organizers wrote that “a low pressure system is threatening the fleet. The skippers are likely to face tough conditions and the back of the fleet already have more than 40kts at times and gusts to 60kts.” Given the fact that the race “is quite isolated,” there was also the additional risk that rescue would be complicated in the event it was necessary.

The next Vendée Globe will take place in 2024; in order to be entered in the race, skippers must take place in at least two of five qualifying races. The next qualifying race is the Route du Rhum in November, which sales from Saint Malo, in Brittany, France, to Pointe-á-Pitre, Guadelopue.

Hlynur Pálmason’s Godland to Compete in Un Certain Regard at Cannes

Director and screenwriter Hlynur Pálmason’s latest film Godland will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Un Certain Regard competition, ScreenDaily reports. This will not be Hlynur’s first time at the prestigious film festival; in 2019 his film A White, White Day screened during Critics’ Week and earned actor Ingvar Sigurðsson the rising star award.

Set in the 19th century, Godland tells the story of a young Danish priest (Elliott Crosset Hove) who “travels to a remote part of Iceland to build a church and photograph its people. But the deeper he goes into the unforgiving landscape, the more he strays from his purpose, his mission and morality.” It is a co-production between Denmark’s Snowglobe film production company and Iceland’s Join Motion Picture.

See Also: Icelandic Film “Lamb” Double-Nominated in Cannes

Cannes’ Un Certain Regard competition, which was “refocused” last year on “the discovery of emerging filmmakers,” has been part of Cannes since 1978. In addition to the main prize, which includes a €30,000 purse, this competition also awards the Ensemble Prize, Prize of Courage, Prize of Originality, and a Special Mention. Last year, the Icelandic film Lamb, directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, written by Sjón, and starring Noomi Rapace, won the competition’s Prize of Originality. In this year’s competition, Godland will screen alongside 14 other films, many of them their directors’ first feature.

Hlynur Pálmason was born and raised in Iceland and then moved to Denmark to study filmmaking at the Danish National Film School. His debut film, Winter Brothers (2017), won four awards in the main competition of the Locarno Film Festival and went on to win 30 awards. Godland is his third feature film.

Opposition Abstains from Voting on “Míla Bill”

Iceland's Althing

Iceland’s Parliament passed the so-called “Mila bill” today with 33 votes in favour, RÚV reports. Fifteen MPs abstained from voting, all members of the opposition. The bill is intended to ensure national security in light of the sale of Iceland’s telecommunications company Míla to French fund management company Ardian.

Míla, which owns and operates nationwide telecommunications systems, was sold to Ardian last year. All of Iceland’s homes, businesses, and institutions are serviced by Míla’s systems, and many expressed concern that such important infrastructure was being sold to a foreign company. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has called telecommunications infrastructure “a key issue for public security in every society.”

Read More: Parliament Rushing to Ensure National Security

Ardian’s purchase of Míla was discussed in the National Security Council and new legislation was drafted, with the stated goal of strengthening and securing the legal basis for electronic communication with regard to national security. Helga Vala Helgadóttir, MP for the Social-Democratic Alliance, has argued that there were many red flags in the government’s handling of the case and that the legislation did not ensure consumer security.

The newly-passed bill, introduced last term by then-Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, amends the Electronic Communications Act, legislation governing the Electronic Communications Office of Iceland (ECOI), and legislation on foreign investment in business operations.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Violated Isolation and Infected Over 100

Irishman pub

Around 100 domestic cases of COVID-19 that have arisen in Iceland the past few days can be traced to a pair of French tourists that came to the country in mid-August, Vísir reports. The two were put into isolation after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, but broke regulations. Three different strains of SARS-CoV-2 are responsible for Iceland’s 281 active cases.

In the last five days, 196 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Iceland. Over half of the new infections can be traced to the Irishman pub and Brewdog restaurant, both in downtown Reykjavík. “Most of the infections in recent days originate from these two places. These are probably around 100 people or just over that,” Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated.

Þórólfur added that there are three strains of the virus currently circulating. One is the so-called “Akranes” strain, while another is the “French” strain that arrived with the aforementioned tourists in August. The French strain is the strain that infected patrons of the two establishments in Reykjavík, who account for most of the country’s recent cases.

“I have information that it was difficult to get them to follow instructions,” Þórólfur stated of the two French tourists, who were put into isolation after testing positive. “I really cannot say more.”

Those who break isolation can face a fine of ISK 150,000-250,000 ($1,100-1,800/€900-1,500), depending on the severity of the violation. It is not known whether the two tourists were in fact fined.

Men’s Football Team Takes on France in Crucial Match

Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson

The Men’s National Football Team will compete against France tonight in a crucial match for the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers. France will be hoping to overtake group-leader Turkey (the two teams are level on points although Turkey has conceded fewer goals). Meanwhile, Iceland is also challenging for the top two places (Iceland is three points behind Turkey and France). The top two teams in each group qualify.

Iceland and France have gone head-to-head a total of 14 times. Les Bleus have been victorious ten times, with four matches resulting in a draw (France leads 41-12 on aggregate). During the two teams’ first match in 1957, during the World Cup qualifiers, France embarrassed Iceland with an 8-0 rout.

In March, the two teams faced off in Paris for their first match in the qualifiers. France beat Iceland 4-0.

Both teams will play without their team captains: Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson (Al-Arabi) and French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) have both been ruled out with injuries. Iceland will also have to do without Hörður Björgvin Magnússon (CSKA Moscow), while Les Bleus will be without Paul Pogba (Manchester United) and Kylian Mbappé (PSG).

As RÚV reports, however, France will field a strong team. Antoine Grizemann (Barcelona); Raphael Varane (Real Madrid); N’Golo Kanté and Olivier Giroud (Chelsea); Kingsley Coman, Lucas Hernández, Benjamin Pavard and Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich) are all expected to play.

Italian Gianluca Rocchi will officiate.

The match – which is long since sold out – will begin at 18:45 at Laugardalsvöllur stadium in Reykjavík tonight.

Iceland qualified for the UEFA European Championship for the first time in 2016. The team advanced through the group stages and secured a 2-1 victory against England in the round of 16. The lost 2-5 against France in the quarter-finals.

Iceland Loses to France in Euro Qualifiers

Iceland football team

The Iceland men’s national football team lost to France last night in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying match. The French team won a confident 4-0 victory against the Icelanders at their home stadium in Paris.

Centre-back Samuel Umtiti put the French team ahead early on with a goal in the 12th minute. It was the only goal of the first half, which ended 1-0 for France. The team added three goals late in the game, with Giroud, Mbappé, and Griezmann scoring in the 68th, 78th, and 84th minutes.

Iceland won their first match of the qualifiers, against Andorra last Friday, with a solid 2-0 victory. The team’s next qualifying match will be a home match against Albania on June 8.

The Icelandic men’s team has yet to win a match against France. The countries’ last meeting, a friendly in October 2018, ended with a promising 2-2 draw. While the French team is currently ranked second in the world, Iceland sits in 38th place.

Iceland Manages Draw Versus World Champions France

France snatched a draw from the Icelandic men’s national football team yesterday, RÚV reports. The friendly match took place in Stade de Roudourou in Guingamp. Iceland led 0-2 before succumbing to heavy pressure from France.

The Icelandic team led 0-1 going into half-time after a goal from midfielder Birkir Bjarnason. Defender Kári Árnason scored a header from a corner kick early in the second half to bring Iceland’s lead to two goals. Wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, substituted on in the second half, changed the match in France’s favour. After having a goal disallowed due to offside, Mbappe’s shot forced defender Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson to score an own goal, before drawing France level from the penalty spot in additional time.

The match is the 18th ever between the two teams, who last met on the pitch in 2016 during the quarter finals of the UEFA Euros. While Iceland has never won against the French team, they have managed a draw in four games.

Iceland was coming off two heavy defeats in the UEFA Nations League, 6-0 versus Switzerland and 0-3 versus Belgium. Iceland team will face Switzerland on Monday 15th October, 18.30 GMT. The match will take place at Laugardalsvöllur stadium, Reykjavík.

Match events:

30′ – Goal – Alfreð Finnbogason

58′ – Goal – Kári Árnason

86′ – Own goal – Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson

90+2′ – Goal – Kylian Mbappe

Iceland Faces France in Friendly Today

The Icelandic men’s national football team faces France in a friendly match this evening. RÚV reported first.

The match is the 18th ever between the two teams, who last met on the pitch in 2016 during the quarter finals of the UEFA Euros. The match ended 7-2 for France, whose team lost in the final to Portugal.

While Iceland has never won against the French team, they managed to tie in four games. The other 13 were wins for the French team, which was this year’s FIFA World Cup champion.

The match will be broadcast live in Iceland on Stöð 2 Sport at 7.00pm local time.

Three Highline Over Dettifoss

Two Frenchmen and one British man performed a remarkable feat on Thursday when they ‘highlined’ across Dettifoss waterfall, RÚV reports. Highlining is a sport similar to tightrope walking or slacklining, in which participants “traverse a narrow, springy band of rope suspended high above the ground.” In this instance, the three highliners walked a rope that spanned 270 meters [886 feet] and was roughly 100 meters [328 feet] above the waterfall, which has the greatest volume of water of any waterfall in Europe.

The trio are part of a larger highlining team that travels around the world practicing their craft. When they first arrived at Dettifoss, they hadn’t decided on an exact location for their crossing. But when a rainbow appeared over the waterfall when they were scouting, they decided to base their crossing location on where they saw it. It seems only fitting, then, that several rainbows appeared in the same spot during their crossing on Thursday. “Some people were afraid,” said Bjarni Karls­son, a park ranger at Vatnajökull National Park who himself watched the crossing. “But most people were interested and excited.”

Highliner Daniel Laruelle says the sport is like a meditation. “If you manage to stay calm then you enter a quasi-meditational state on the line. It works more often than not, but when there’s a lot of stimuli around you—like, for instance, a giant waterfall or a bunch of rainbows, then it can be difficult to keep your focus,” he admitted. But the teammates insist that the practice is actually safer than it looks. “As soon as I’ve secured the safety,” said Daniel, “I can go out on the line and fall as often as I want.”

His teammates Nicolas Pouchars and Theo Sanson agreed. “It is actually more dangerous to drive a car around than it is to go out on the line,” said Theo. “Although your head says something else. We do this because it’s fantastic, but it’s also symbolic. We are all looking for balance in our lives, but it is a long process and takes us a lifetime.”

See pictures of the three men’s remarkable, rainbow-embellished crossing on RÚV here. Bjarni Karlsson’s short video and photographs are viewable on mbl.is.