Sports are popular in Switzerland both as events to be watched in stadiums or on television and as a personal activity. There are some sports that are probably specific to Switzerland, but the most popular sports are well known worldwide.
European football (or soccer, as North Americans call it) is by far the most popular sport in Europe and Switzerland is no exception. European football dominates sport reports on television, radio and in newspapers. There are different football leagues, two on national level and several more on regional level. North American style football plays no role in Switzerland.
|Super League, Men||Challenge League, Men|
*) Vaduz is the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein, a very small independent country east of Switzerland. Liechtenstein shares lots of things with Switzerland (for example the currency, postal services, customs union) and so they are welcome at Switzerland's national sports events, too.
European football (soccer) is played everywhere throughout Switzerland both by large numbers of amateurs and by professional players. As large amonunts of money (high wages and huge transfer sums for top scorers) dominate the scene, only the big cities have a real chance to stay in the Super League. The economic center Zurich is present with two clubs corresponding to its number of inhabitants as well as to its economical mightyness. The financial side of the game seems to be quite risky, however: several clubs have become bankrupt in recent years, currently FC Servette Geneva has lost its fight for survival (2005-02-17). Smaller clubs consist of amateur footballers.
There are some women's football clubs in Switzerland with 14,200 active (licensed) players, but they really have a hard time gaining even a fraction of the enormous attention and popularity male footballers are given by the media and the public.
|National League A||National League B||
The remarkable thing about icehockey in Switzerland is that there are five teams from small towns and villages among the top ten despite the fact that ice-hockey is dominated by professional teams. The top teams engage some foreign players (mostly from the USA, Canada or Sweden).
|National League A, Women||National League A, Men||
Volleyball is probably the most popular team sport among Swiss women.
|National League A, Men||National League A, Women||
15 out of 20 top basketball teams come from French speaking western Switzerland, four more from Italian speaking southern Switzerland. German speaking teams (one of twenty) seem to be without a chance - this is statistically definitely abnormal with 74% of the population living in German speaking Switzerland. In other words: there is a language-barrier in sports preferences. Again small towns and villages dominate the scene.
|National League, Men||National League A, Women||
Handball seems to be a sport exclusively for the German speaking part of the population and while the big German speaking cities are present, there are some villages among the very best ...
The Swiss women's uni-hockey team won the world champion title 2005 on June, 5th in Singapur in the final game against Finland. Since 1997 women's world championships in uni-hockey seem to be dominated by three nations: Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. This does not at all mean that uni-hockey would be extremely popular in Switzerland, it rather seems that uni-hockey is just a little less neglected in Switzerland than in other countries. We will see, whether the success of Switzerland's women team will make uni-hockey more popular ... Swiss champions are the Red Ants club from Winterthur.
Track and field athletics and gymnastics should not be underestimated though one will rarely find them on the sports pages of Swiss newspapers. Thousands of athletes meet regularly once a week or even more often for training (and sociability) throughout the country. There are some contests and above all there is the Eidgenössische Turnfest [Swiss Federal Gymnasts Meeting] where they all meet for a few days.
Jogging, mid- and long-distance running and nordic walking have become very popular among men, women and children in Switzerland over the last decade. More than 800,000 people (11 % of the total population) are active runners, joggers or nordic walkers. This year, 22 cities and alpine resorts organize so-called popular races. City races usually have different routes for elite runners (about 5 to 10 km / miles), normal adults and children/families (about 1.6 km / 1 mile). Individual time stamping for thousands of participants is based on starting numbers with integrated computer chips. In addition there are still some of the traditional armed races for men (longdistance races in Swiss Army uniforms with an army backpack and a rifle).
(relay race, 15 runners/team)
Pictures Lucerne 2005
|1.55 - 8.565|
0.96 - 5.32
|2005-05-21||Bern||Grand Prix Bern||1.6 - 16.1|
1 - 10
climbing world's longest stairs
(Swiss Women's Race)
|5 / 10 |
3.1 / 6.2
|2005-06-26||Bettmeralp||Aletsch Halbmarathon Bettmeralp|
|2005-07-03/09||Geneva-Basel||Swiss Jura Trail
7 days' race
|2005-07-30||Davos||Swiss Alpin Marathon Davos||0.8 - 78.5 |
0.5 - 48.8
|2005-08-21||Zermatt||Int. Matterhornlauf Zermatt||14.4 |
altitude difference: 1229 m / 6000 ft
|2005-09-17||Uster||Greifenseelauf Uster||1.2 - 21.1 |
0.75 - 13.1
also for skaters and people in wheel chairs
|2005-12-03||Geneva||Course de l'Escalade||1.8 - 7.25 |
1.12 - 4.5
|2005-12-11||Zurich||Zürcher Silvesterlauf||1.4 - 9.10.87 - 5.66||14,533|
The table shows, by the way, that several races in alpine resorts were invented by or for British tourists (round distances in miles / feet) while popular races in cities are based on continental European standards (kilometers) or just on the local topology.
Next to running, activities like biking, mountain biking and skating on roller-blades are very popular in Switzerland. Hiking and climbing used to be on top of the list of summer sports once and are still quite widespread among the more than 30 year old generation. Clubs do exist for all of these sports, but still more people prefer to practise these sports individually.
Swimming (and sunbathing) are extremely popular in summer. Open air public swimming pools and lakeside swimming facilities can be found all over the country, they are usually open from end of May to mid September. All major towns and even many schools do have indoor swimming pools. All children do learn to swim in school,
Despite of rather expensive equipment, thousands of people can be seen riding on horseback, golfing, sailing, windsurfing, paragliding and river-rafting on weekends.
In the 1970's, children in Swiss schools learnt a song with the refrain "Alles fahrt Schii, Schii fahrt die ganzi Nation" [everybody is skiing, all the nation does] - and this was indeed quite true (except for the elder people). Downhill skiing is still very popular among the more than 30 year old and most families spend many weekends and at least one week of vacations in a ski-resort, younger people prefer snowboard riding to classical downhill skiing, however.
Cross-country skiing is the domain of the more than 40 year old. More than 12,000 skiers participate each year in the Engadin Skimarathon, Switzerland's World Loppet event.
All major towns and most alpine resorts in Switzerland have an ice-field that can be used from December to March. Many girls do take elementary courses in figure skating while boys prefer ice-hockey.
Schwingen [some kind of wrestling, performed in an arena covered with sawdust] is not well known outside Switzerland, but quite popular in rural areas of Switzerland. Swingers wear a typical kind of short brown trousers made from the same material as potato bags. Since the reward for the "king of the swingers" is a Muni [young bull] the popularity of this sport is rather limited in Swiss cities. The picture shows a parody on the 2004 swingers' festival displayed at Lucerne carnival, 2005.
Another rather unique sport in Switzerland is Hornussen: the hornusser knocks a nut through the air with a long flexible rod. Hornussen is limited to a small number of clubs in northern Switzerland and and a handfull of clubs in southern Germany.
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