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A new chapter is beginning in the Latibær adventure that started with Magnús Scheving’s idea 11 years ago. The Sports Elf’s message has gained a strong foothold in the United States and he intends to make great strides. Latibær is becoming a world village, but according to the author, the ideal behind it can be found on a snooker table. You can always find ways to get the balls in the right place. The will is all that is needed.
Eleven years of development work by Magnús Scheving and his colleagues in Latibær has now resulted in a contract with Nickelodeon, the largest cable television station in the United States. The agreement stipulates, among other things, that the station will broadcast television programs about life in Latibær for the next seven years. Magnús started teaching part-time gymnastics almost twenty years ago. While he didn’t work long in sports education, he soon began giving lectures to children and adolescents on diet and exercise when he realized it was aimed at remedying the nation’s health problems.
“I have traveled all over the world with these lectures and have taught children gymnastics in 52 countries and used that experience when I created Latibær. I anticipated that after ten years, a bad diet and little exercise would become a major problem that would cost the societies of the world dearly, so I created Latibær out of five hundred questions I had received during the lectures. These were always the same questions, wherever I went, and the answers to some of them were in the book Áfram Latibær. Then three other books followed and two plays.” Magnús wrote the first book in Hveragerði and says he did not write it, but spoke it and it was written for him.
Magnús is an award-winning aerobics champion and first attracted significant attention for his achievements in that field. “I have done many things in my life. I worked as a carpenter when I started teaching gymnastics at night, but it was from then on that I started doing aerobics. It so happened that I was challenged in a bet, that I would have three years to succeed in something I had to do. I was not allowed to know what I was supposed to do until I had made the bet. It so happened that it was aerobics. Then I suddenly became the Nordic champion in aerobics. I then won the European Championship twice and ended up in eighth place at the World Championships. I then competed again for the world title and took fifth place. Then it reminds me that I got the third place and then the second. That tournament was in Japan and divided into two days.” Magnús received the highest score, 8.7, on the second day of the competition, but it was the first time that a score of 8.5 was given. He then went even higher on the scale and got 9.1 but lost to his main competitor by 0.04 points.
All together now!
Latibær’s message is conveyed to young people in a variety of ways, suffice it to mention books, plays, board games, Latibær’s radio and, last but not least, the Lató economy, which was an overwhelming success.
“The second year of the Lató economy was coming to an end that day, but there has been a 190% increase between years and the kids have saved 60 million ISK (Icelandic currency) in two years. The idea of the economy is to teach them that things are not free and get them to invest the money and invest in loyalty at the same time; swimming, bus travel, milk and more. The economy is running for three months a year and the kids have taken it extremely well.”
Magnús is launching a national campaign at the beginning of next month that aims to improve the health of Icelanders. “This has been in preparation for almost three years and, like the Lató economy and the radio, is not run for profit. This is an ideal job based on cooperation with the government, all ministries and most of the country’s municipalities. There were very few municipalities that did not want to join. Two, I remember, but I decided to pay for them myself as the children do not understand why any local government does not want to participate. We will distribute a 50 page book to all children aged 4 to 7 in the country. It comes with an envelope with an agreement that the children make with their parents to change the diet of the home. Then 25 million stickers will be distributed with this and then the ball starts and the children paste tickets for each day of the month. The labels contain pictures of certain food, such as fish, so that you get a clear overview of the family’s diet and mum and dad can see which food categories are being forgotten and can improve it in consultation with the kids.”
One way for many
Magnús says that the Americans have shown great interest in the campaign. “They have been wondering about sending a Newsweek reporter here to cover this. The Americans are always so quick to find words everywhere and they call it “How to change the diet of a generation”. However, we talk about “Activating the energy of future generations” and emphasize that the will is all that is needed.
Magnús says that he has been less than alone in realizing what he was aiming for ten years ago. “We in Latibær are not necessarily fighting obesity, but we emphasize that everyone eats healthy food. It is not our goal at all for everyone to be confused.”
Magnús says that the basic idea with Latibær is to start early enough to shape children’s attitudes towards the body and health. “You do not change much after the age of 9. The children are especially receptive between the ages of two and seven, when they still have innocence. After that, you do not change much. What the American is fascinating about is how we have managed to make children’s material about exercise accessible and fun. However, I am not at all saying that this is the only right way. There are definitely a hundred other ways but this is one of them and we are marketing it.”