MADRID - A 62-YEAR-OLD Ecuadorean man managed to ignore the uproar of a teeming Madrid shopping center and snore long enough to win what was billed as Spain's first siesta championship.

Organisers 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 (S$12.60) they had given me helped,' he said before collecting the 1,000 euro winning check.

The somewhat tongue-in-cheek 9-day contest that ended on Saturday was organised 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.

Man, 62, wins siesta contest