Gil Mayencourt: “Wingling is a tradition that was invented in the 19th century”

Around 400,000 people are expected to attend the Federal Wrestling Festival in Pratteln (BL) from Friday to Sunday. However, this seemingly ancient tradition was not “manufactured” until the 19th century, recalls historian Gil Mayencourt.

The Swiss wrestling festival, which takes place every three years, is one of the most important folk festivals in Switzerland. One of its great features is that there are no medals, cups or prize money. This tradition “dates back to the first federal holidays at the end of the 19th century,” historian Gil Mayencourt recalled on RTS’ Friday morning.

The exclusive awarding of non-cash prizes, e.g. B. a bull for the winner, should preserve the traditional folkloric charge of the national games. “She was born at a time when tourism was developing, especially alpine tourism. Folklore then became an economic loser like any other,” explains the Doctor of History from the University of Lausanne.

Popular sport made literally

Gil Mayencourt is working on a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) project on the emergence of national sports (like national sports such as gymnastics, wrestling or football originated in the 19th century). The researcher talks about the invention of a tradition of national sport. “There’s something deliberately provocative about it,” he admits. “But beyond that, I think it’s really relevant to talk about inventions.”

“In the Middle Ages and beyond, in the so-called old Confederation, we have forms of panty swinging, which we then want to call swinging,” the historian notes. But the actual promotion of national games such as wrestling, stone throwing or Hornuss only dates from the 19th century: “Here we will have the institutionalization of these practices in the form of federal festivals and above all their invention as a national sport.”

The need for a national narrative for Switzerland of 1848

We must not forget that the state was born in 1848, Gil Mayencourt points out. “And it is precisely at this point that Switzerland becomes a nation where we have to bring together cantons, very different cultural and political identities, multiple languages ​​and the urban-rural divide.”

Therefore, to make a connection, we will write a national narrative. “We’re going to invent it to a large extent and those symbols, which are the national games, are an integral part of writing this story.”

A gigantic temporary infrastructure

The largest sports arena in Switzerland, built in the canton of Basel-Landschaft, offers space for 50,900 spectators. On 15,000 m2, i.e. two and a half football pitches, seven circular areas covered with 245 m3 of sawdust are waiting for 280 of the best wrestlers from all over Switzerland (see box). Given the distance between wrestlers and the crowd, giant screens are set up on the premises.

The competitions start on Friday morning. In the afternoon, a traditional inauguration procession leaves the center of Pratteln and arrives at the party grounds.

The decisive day for the awarding of the title of the wrestling king is scheduled for Sunday from 07:45 to 17:00. In particular, the winner receives a bull. Other attractions and celebrations of all kinds are also organized on the site.

>> Delphine Gendre’s report in La Matinale:

Live from Pratteln to the Federal Wrestling and Alpine Festival / La Matinale / 4 min. / today at 07:00

Live on SSR channels

The major sporting event will be broadcast live on German television SRF. The broadcasters of the other language regions of the SSR, including RTS, will also broadcast it from time to time.

The installation of the construction site infrastructure mobilized many soldiers during the rehearsals. At the beginning of the summer, the Basel-Land police gave the go-ahead for the security concept for the event.

The locations are accessible by public transport, including trams and buses. At Pratteln station, the platforms were extended and provisional access bridges were built over a stream to accommodate the large crowds in the party area. The budget for the event is CHF 42 million.

oang with David Berger and ats

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