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Festival proves traditional wrestling as popular as ever

Swiss wrestling counts a long but not always respected history

(Keystone Archive)

Traditional Swiss wrestling belongs as much to Swiss alpine culture as does yodelling and the alphorn. This Sunday, the most time honoured of wrestling events, the "Brünig Schwinget" will be held on the Brünig Pass in central Switzerland.

For the uninitiated, traditional Swiss wrestling could be mistaken for the Japanese variety, if it wasn't for the fact that Swiss competitors wear more clothes when they enter the ring than their Sumo counterparts.

In fact, the costume worn by the Swiss wrestler speaks volumes. As is the case during the open air Brünig event, competitors either wear a white shirt and trousers to denote their town origins, or the working clothes of a farmer, alluding to their roots in the countryside.

The wrestler pulls short burlap pants over his costume, with leg openings wide enough to allow the challenger a good grip on the cloth. Each wrestler's goal is to pin the shoulders of his competitor to the sawdust floor of the ring.

Thousands make a pilgrimage to the annual event, where they can enjoy the festival atmosphere as well the mountain scenery.

Swiss wrestling dates back centuries - the Brünig Schwinget to 1893 - and was banned in parts of Switzerland up until the early part of the last century.

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