I am not a card-carrying member of
the Austin Powers fan club. I have seen the three films, and liked them
in decreasing amounts. However, in the third film, there is one moment
that stuck with me: when Michael Caine declares, “There are only two
things I can't stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's
cultures... and the Dutch.”
Caine’s character obviously had never been to an Olympic speed skating event,
where the Dutch are a sight to behold. This isn’t to say that other
countries don’t love the sport – sitting in the Oval Lingotto, which
is only a few steps from my home in the IBC, I find myself amongst
rabid fans from Russia, Japan, and Finland, to say nothing of American Chad
Hedrick’s Texas crew in its red sweatshirts with the longhorn state logo.
But the Dutch are something a bit different.
Regardless of where the Olympics take place, the Dutch make it their home
turf, buying blocks of tickets to the speed skating oval. The sea of
orange that permeates the stands is alive with cheering, chanting, singing,
and – yes, believe it – brass bands. They treat the Olympics like we
(or you, since I’m not much of a football fan) treat the Super Bowl.
You have to imagine thousands of people wearing orange, whether in the form
of tee-shirts, feather boas, giant cowboy hats, wild wigs, or just wrapped
in orange sheets. I can’t imagine what the stores in the Netherlands
look like – I mean seriously, orange sheets?
Their heroes are easy to find by the level of noise that follows them as
they skate by while warming up: Jan Bos, Beorn Nijenhuis,
Erben Wennemars. Coming into Torino, the Netherlands could boast
66 medals in the sport, and they are as proud of that fact as of anything
Best of all, they are an equal opportunity fan base. They don’t just
save their fervor for their own – they love, respect, and understand the sport
thoroughly, which means that good skaters – regardless of where they are
from – get props from those decked out in the orange. Skaters from around
the world often talk about how much they appreciate skating in front of Dutch
fans, knowing that they are fully appreciated for what they do. And
no one cheered harder for American Shani Davis than those clad in
It is an amazing spectacle – almost as much fun to watch as the skating
itself. And they don’t just limit themselves to the venue – at any
Winter Games, you see them roaming the host city in their orange regalia,
receiving shout-outs and cheers from fellow fans, and getting their pictures
taken by people like me.
American speed skater Shani Davis during the 1000m flower
projected on the jumbo screen amidst Dutch fans.