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What sports and games are the most popular in Slovakia?
Many people in Slovakia like to watch ice-hockey, talk about football and comment on tennis. Some of them swim in the summer and ski in winter.
It is important to distinguish between an "active sport" - a sport, that a person exercises for her health, fun and recreation - and a "passive sport" or "TV-sports", that the people are talking about, but not necessarily do them.
In Summer, many people spend the warmest days near water. There are quite many natural and artificial lakes, that allow people to swim or sail a boat.
Slovakia is a mountainous country. Winter ski resorts are usually full of skiing people. Beside of ski, some people are trying their snowboards.
The tourist roads in the mountains are very well marked and hiking maps are available for each region. You can meet hikers in the woods of High Tatras ("Vysoké Tatry"), as well as around Bratislava in Small Carpathes ("Malé Karpaty"). Many of these roads are suitable for bikes too. Some roads are used by inline-skaters, but there is no real track network.
It is not always fun to do a sport alone. Sport games are more social, they make the people interract with each other. So what are the most popular games?
Football (European football, soccer, "futbal") is the most popular game in Slovakia. It is the cheapest collective game - only a relatively flat ground and a ball is needed to make almost any number of people (four up to twenty-two or more) enjoy the game. Almost every town and village has its own playground and a team that is playing in the regional league.
Ice-Hockey ("ľadový hokej", "hokej") is more expensive to go in. However, all clubs have their youth teams to support young talents. Other popular games are volleyball ("volejbal"), basketball ("basketbal"), tennis ("tenis"), handball ("hádzaná") and for the wealthier also golf.
Games, that are very popular in other countries, such as baseball, rugby, softball or pétanque have only started their invasion of Slovak playgrounds. There are some organizations, that try to propagandize the games and hold public tournaments.
The number one is probably ice-hockey. Since the team of Slovakia takes part at every World Championship since 1996 and in the past few years has reached very good results (gold in 2002, silver in 2000 and bronze in 2003), many people like to identify themselves with the team and become the greatest patriots, at least for the two weeks the championship lasts. The results of the North-American NHL are also one of the most important news items, because there are quite many NHL-players from Slovakia.
Football is also very popular "passive" sport. The reason, that it is on the place two behind the ice-hockey is probably because the Slovak team does not perform on the international scene as well as the Ice-Hockey team.
Tennis, which probably seems to be boring to be watched, can be attractive too. People also like to watch the Grand Prix of Formula 1, at least the most exciting first and final rounds.
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