February 20, 2006


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 else. 

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 orange feathers.

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 ceremony,
projected on the jumbo screen amidst Dutch fans.

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D U R I N G  T H E  W I N T E R  G A M E S ?

C L I C K  H E R E
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on the CNR At The Winter Games website!
m o r e

Be sure to check back often for Dr. Amy Bass's updates to her
Online CNR Winter Olympic Games Diary.

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