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Wednesday's papers: Wolf bite, clock-watching, and Lahti ski celebration

Wednesday's newspapers include a horrifying wolf attack at a zoo, the many and varied distortions caused by the government's competitiveness pact, and the start of a major cross-country skiing championship.

Susi.
Wolf attacks are rare in Finland. Image: Seppo Nykänen

All the papers cover a wolf attack on a 7-year-old boy at Ähtäri zoo. The child had been visiting the Ostrobothnian attraction with his family when suddenly a wolf lunged at him through a fence.

The animal managed to grab his hand and mauled it severely, with another wolf joining the attack. The boy suffered serious injuries and was taken to hospital in Tampere for treatment. The boy had somehow gone past a first wooden fence, making it to the edge of the animal enclosure, before he was attacked.

IL reports that police are investigating whether the incident was caused by negligence in any way, while Ilta-Sanomat includes photos of warning signs from the park which include the English text 'don't let animals think your fingers are food'.

Competitiveness pact-ing

Ilta-Sanomat's editorial details some of the fallout from the hard-won 'competitiveness pact' agreed by the government and labour market organisations last year. The idea, promoted by former businessman and current Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, was to improve Finnish competitiveness by forcing everyone in the country – private sector, public sector, doctors, software developers, bus drivers and all – to work an extra 24 hours per year for the same salary.

An effective pay cut, an internal devaluation, whatever name you want to give it, the pact is now law and HR departments across the country have rolled out the directives to implement the centrally-planned changes to working hours. IS notes that this one-size-fits-all approach has thrown up more than a few absurdities.

"It could be that in some places the directions have been made simple and suitable for the day-to-day," writes IS. "But in many workplaces the everyday experience feels like the pact has caused irritation, disbelief, eye-rolling or hysterical laughter. In many places a combination of the above."

The issues are many and varied, say IS. The paper writes that exporting industry voices have burst out laughing at the idea that customers in China might order more products because a doctor at a municipal health centre is working longer hours. Other companies have noticed that employees who did not previously watch the clock – and therefore did a fair amount of unpaid overtime – are suddenly much more expensive now they keep track of hours worked to comply with the pact.

IS does see a bright side to all this, however. With all the directives to be written and advice to be sought, HR departments at least will have plenty of work for the foreseeable future.

Lahti games

Wednesday marks the start of the World Championships in Nordic skiing in Lahti, and all the papers cover the championships in some way or another. In among the usual previews and tips are a few unusual stories, with Helsingin Sanomat covering IT millionaire Paul Bragiel, a 39-year-old who will be skiing for Colombia this week.

He had tried to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, training extensively in Finland at the time, but fell short. This time he will be at the start line and competes today in the men's 10 km event. He admits to HS that he has very little chance of qualifying for the later stages, as his coach reckons he's about nine minutes behind the best in the world over 10 km.

He represents Colombia in return for a commitment to advise the president on technology issues, as well as visiting the country to conduct lectures. Founded by Bragiel, the Colombian ski team now has two members – just two short of a relay squad, jokes the US-born athlete.

IS, meanwhile, focuses on the atmosphere and the folklore surrounding the event. A colour piece by a Lahti-born journalist lauds the venue, Salpausselkä, as an almost mythical part of the city's fabric. Whatever the weather, it is the duty of every Lahtian, writes the journalist, to watch from the side of the skiing tracks.

That's an obsession shared by the rest of the country too, apparently. IS remembers a time when television production was not quite up to modern standards, and over a 25 km course there would be several points at which the live coverage would feature a blank snowy track as the director waited for the skiers to get to the next camera.

Enjoyment in those days was all about the anticipation. Hopefully that won't be necessary this week, with Yle providing up-to-date production and coverage across television, radio and online – but you never know.

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