Edition No. 26. Spring, 2001. Today is

Estonia, 20/21st January 2001.

By: Bob Willingham

Situated at the Western extreme of the Russian Continent , Estonia is ideally positioned as a meeting point for the East and West. With a long established maritime tradition, Tallinn is easily reached from the Scandinavian countries by boat. To get there from countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus takes a 'steady' drive by car! If your choice however is air travel, through Helsinki, you will experience what must be one of the world's shortest scheduled air routes. The plane will take off, climb and and then immediately start to descend before landing. There is barely enough time for the stewardess to handout a chocolate.

The town of Tallinn, is of a Hansa style, similar to towns in Germany and Poland. Centred around a very large market square. the castle walls have been restored in some areas and provide a perfect frame to a beautiful picture. The very genuine nature of the people in Estonia and their desire to achieve the maximum from their resources, creates a very strong sense of community .

The venue for the judo tournament was an indoor athletics stadium. By careful positioning of the advertising and spectators a real atmosphere was created for the television cameras. There was a lot of interest shown here by the media, who had come to see their Olympic Bronze medallists, Indrek Pertleson and Aleksei Budolin in action. (Estonia had three Olympic medalists in Sydney, the other one was Erki Nool who took Gold in the Triatholon.) A delightfully unusual acknowledgement of their achievements was to have an ice-cream flavour produced in their name. Each one of the trio was given 100 kilos in their flavour. Indrek donated 60 kilos of his to a local children's home, gave 20 kilos to friends, and still has a fridge load!

On the first of the two days of competition Pertelson provided the live commentary for the television: on the second was he was fighting, so the national coach and one of the local coaches provided the commentary.

In such a small country the number of people available to help run such a competition is limited. However one ingenious way they used to ensure the maximum number of qualified referees at work on the mat, was to allow the children to run the control tables. Their anticipation and enthusiasm was a delight to see, trying to be the first one to turn the numbers on the scoreboard, or checking their stopwatches with one another for synchronisation. I wasn't aware of a single error made throughout the weekend!

The whole competition was compered throughout the day to ensure the spectators knew who was competing. The compere was one member of a band called the 'golden trio' who entertained the spectators just before the finals began; during the Soviet occupation of Estonia the trio had been banned from performing because of their satirical lyrics, but now the energy of their playing was as if they hadn't played since then! They were a big hit with the audience, some of whom were on their feet dancing to the music.

During the opening ceremony a couple of local female politicians were introduced to the crowds in the stadium and were presented with judo suits, which they dutifully put on, and then laughed at the idea of fighting each other.

In the true style of showmanship both Budolin and Pertelson won their categories, but just to make it even more exciting Padar, a fellow countryman, who normally fights in the - 100 kilo category gave Indrek a hard time before finally being thrown for Ippon. A superb climax to a highly successful weekend.

If you are interested in competing in next year's tournament contact the Estonian Judo Federation at: ejl@online.ee


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