Do you know which two modern-day countries have spent the most time at war with one another over the last millennium?
“Easy,” we hear you cry. “And the 100 Years War between England and France actually lasted for 116 years. And then there was Napoleon.”
And it’s true that since 1066 the two countries have fought a record 35 wars.
But when it comes to total time at war, the answer is a little closer to home.
Since 1500, Sweden and Denmark have fought 13 wars and reached 28 official peace settlements. Indeed, most historians concur that a de facto state of war existed between the countries from 1523 to 1813.
Superior in the summer?
These days the rivalry has manifested itself in sports, and while snowy Sweden will always have an undisputed edge over damp Denmark in winter sports, it’s an even playing field elsewhere – particularly given the advances the Danes have made in sports like handball, tennis, golf and motor racing this century.
Arguably today, Denmark is the superior nation at the Summer Olympics. It has surpassed Sweden’s total medal haul at the last three Olympics and, with nine medals to Sweden’s six, looks set to make it four in a row – not bad for a nation that trails its neighbour population-wise by 5.5 to 9.5 million.
It’s a far cry from the 1980 Olympics when Sweden won 12 medals to Denmark’s five, and the 19-6, 11-4, 12-6 and 12-6 thrashings it handed out in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000.
But since then, Sweden has averaged less than seven medals a games.
“You have to give some credit to the DIF, the Danish sports confederation,” Allan Olsen, the sports editor at Ekstra Bladet, told CPH POST.
“Smaller sports in Denmark get a lot more funding than they used to. And 10-15 years ago, Sweden were much better at athletics.”
Three more medals a possibility
But the days of the Swedish golden trio of Carolina Klüft (heptalon), Christian Olsson (triple jump) and Stefan Holm (high jump), who all won gold at the 2004 Olympics, are long gone.
Heading into the final quarter of the 2016 Olympics, Denmark’s medal prospects look distinctly better than the Swedes.
The men are going strong in the handball (Slovenia tonight in the quarter-finals at 22:00; sailors Jena Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen are in a three-way tie for first heading into today’s medal race in the women’s 49ER FX at 19:05; Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter-Juhl are assured of at least a silver in the women’s badminton doubles (final on Thursday 16:50) and Viktor Axelsen is in the last eight of the men’s; and Sara Slott Petersen qualified second fastest for Friday’s final in the women’s 400 m hurdles. Lastly, Simone Tetsche Christensen is among the favourites in the women’s BMX.
Denmark looks likely to win three more medals, while for Sweden, besides a guaranteed silver in the women’s football, the prospects look pretty bleak.
Of course, four Olympics of Danish dominance is a mere trifle compared to the military clout that Sweden enjoyed in the mid-17th century.
But bragging rights are bragging rights, and for now, the shoe is clearly on Denmark’s foot.
12:52 + 13:52: Golf – Nicole Broch Larsen and Nanna Koerstz Madsen tee off in the women’s golf on TV2 Zulu
14:58: Kayak – Emma Jørgensen in heats and possible semifinal at 16:17 in the 200 m sprint on TV2
16:00: Badminton – Viktor Axelsen in the quarter-finals of the men’s singles on DR1
18:40 + 19:38: BMX – Simone Tetsche and Niklas Laustsen in the seeding heats on DR3
22:00: Handball – Denmark takes on Slovenia in the quarter-finals on DR1