Following remarks made by Iceland’s Olympic handball coach about the meaning of the sport, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson told the international press that handball is a defining sport for the Icelandic people, equivalent to “the core of the national spirit”.
Iceland is competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics being held in London this year, and have so far been doing quite well for themselves in handball. Guðmundur Þ. Guðmundsson, Iceland’s handball coach, has been quoted in the international media as saying, “We have no army in Iceland, so it’s with handball we fight for the recognition,” following the country’s victory against Argentina yesterday. They have also scored a 32-22 victory against Tunisia, RÚV reports.
Among those attending was Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. TIME magazine caught up with the president to get his thoughts on the game:
“Handball, for us, has become not just a sport, but the core of the national spirit,” Grimsson says. “Can anyone honestly say the same about any single U.S. Olympic team? No way. I’m here not just as a great fan of the team,” says the Icelandic president, “but to also pay homage to what they’ve done.”
Ólafur also credited handball for being a part of Iceland’s recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, saying, “A nation, after an initial shock, decided to move forward. And the handball team played a big role in that.”
When asked for final thoughts before the impromptu interview’s close, the president remarked, “My last word to the American audience is to start playing handball. It’s a fun game.”