MADRID — A 62-year-old Ecuadorean man managed to ignore the uproar of a teeming Madrid shopping center and snore loudly enough to win what was billed as Spain's first siesta championship.
Organizers on Saturday proclaimed unemployed security worker Pedro Soria Lopez the champion for sleeping 17 minutes.
They said he not only slept soundly but his snoring on Tuesday also registered 70 decibels — roughly the equivalent of the noise of someone talking loudly. That earned him extra points and enough to defeat the runner-up who had slept for 18 minutes.
"Oh I am so happy to be the first champion," said a laughing Quito-born Soria Lopez, who sported a handsome paunch and a drop-bar black mustache. He said he was a regular siesta taker, and it looked as if was telling the truth.
"My wife made me do this, but then they couldn't wake me up. Naturally, the lunch I had before with the 7 euros ($10) they had given me helped," he said before collecting the €1,000 ($1,400) winning check.
The somewhat tongue-in-cheek 9-day contest that ended Saturday was organized by the recently formed National Association of Friends of the Siesta and was sponsored by a shopping mall in Madrid's working class Carabanchel district.
Its aim? To promote a revival of this timeless custom so identified with Spain but which some believe is in danger of vanishing because of the pressures of modern times.
"People are so stressed out they can't take siestas any more," said spokesman Andres Lemes. "Studies show it's a healthy practice that recharges your batteries."
Each of the 360 sleepers that took part in the contest got just one shot. There also were individual prizes for snoring, odd sleeping positions and wearing striking pajamas.
Contestants in groups of five were given 20 minutes to lie down on garish blue couches and timed by a doctor with a pulse-measuring device to determine how long they spent snoozing. A judge perched on an umpire's seat awarded points for position, snoring ability and apparel.
"It's not a scientific study, obviously," said Peruvian Dr. Lila Chuecas, who monitored the contestants. "The idea is to encourage people to practice a healthy habit."
She said that less than 30 percent of contestants managed to nod off, given the surrounding noise of giggling youths and parents screaming at their kids. Loud, thumping pop music pounded continuously from the numerous stores all around.
The sofas were lined up in parallel numbered lanes like those of a track meet, and eight rounds were held per day.
On Saturday, one young girl showed up in pink, heart-striped pajamas and snuggled up to a brown furry bunny. An older man wore a Santa hat and had a cushion stuffed under his T-shirt.
Two Americans studying in Madrid read about the contest on the Internet and won 2nd and 3rd place in their individual round.
"I think I fell asleep, but someone kept kicking my couch," said Asya Kislyuk, 21, of Indianapolis. "We will now go forth to be the ambassadors for the siesta," she joked.
Walter Foxworth, 23, from Dallas, said: "This is a great idea, but it's tragic if globalization and a busier world lead to the end of the siesta."
Organizers said they plan a bigger championship next year and may even take it abroad.
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