Today’s Dutch dailies feature more – much more – skating madness. It’s the end of an era for the Dutch car industry. Euthanasia in the Netherlands moves forward. And the Dutch have strong opinions about the fall of Alberto Contador.
Elfstedentocht: the overkill begins
“Polish, mop and sweep” - it’s not the catchiest headline ever to grace De Telegraaf’s front page. But when it refers to the country’s feverish efforts to make sure the ice is good enough for the legendary 200km Elfstedentocht skating race to go ahead, it’s sure to have Dutch readers on the edge of their seats.
Yes, we know. The fact that the Dutch are going into collective meltdown at the prospect of holding the Eleven Cities Tour was yesterday’s news. But it’s also today’s news. And brace yourselves people, it’ll be news every day till “the Tour of Tours” – as all the papers call it – either takes place or an unwelcome thaw sets in and dashes the nation’s hopes.
To give you an idea of just how deep the obsession goes, AD devotes its first seven pages to the story, while De Telegraaf manages a mere five. Its TV page informs us that a special Ice News Bulletin will be broadcast every day while the subzero temperatures continue.
It may seem a bit pointless to get so excited about an event that might not even happen, but that atmosphere of tense anticipation is all part of the thrill. And there’s been plenty of time for the excitement to build. If does go ahead, it’ll be the first in 15 years.
Cheer up ... it may never happen
But it’s not going to happen all by itself. AD reports that it’s a “massive job” to make sure the ice is in good enough shape to withstand the impact of 16,000 skaters. There’s even talk of “ice transplants” to bolster weak spots on the route.
Skating fever turns the Netherlands on its head. As AD notes, suddenly Jan Oostenbrug – the “ice master” along the route – is currently “more important than the prime minister”. And little towns that no one’s ever heard of – Balk anyone? – are suddenly the focus of the nation’s hopes and dreams. Will they be able to sort out their “soft ice problem” in time?
The moon plays a mysterious part in all this, though the papers can’t agree on its significance. According to De Telegraaf, “the full moon will bring good luck” in the form of thicker ice and colder temperatures. But Trouw reckons the full moon heralds a change in the weather and “that’s the last thing the organisers need.”
In short the country’s still on tenterhooks: Trouw tells us “the ice master is optimistic but still won’t set a date”. Of course, that’s not stopping publicity-hungry celebrities cashing in by publicly begging the organisers for a chance to take part. Not to mention the public appeal by a hot chocolate brand to find the oldest prospective participant and turn them into “the Netherlands’ new senior skating hero”.
Is there any chance that the Netherlands will regain its senses in the next few days? Believe me, hell will freeze over first!
An end to the Dutch car
One other story makes all the papers today: the demise of NedCar, the Netherlands’ last car manufacturing plant. De Volkskrant waxes nostalgic, remembering that the operation was once “the pride of Limburg”, though it had been running at a quarter of its capacity for some time. Soon, however, we’ll be seeing “the last car made in the Netherlands”. One worker tells the paper sadly, “the factory is the height of automotive technology but now it’s being thrown on the scrap heap”.
De Telegraaf describes the “fury and disappointment” in response to the news, but also sees “a glimmer of hope”, as the workers seek a rescue plan. Yet the paper’s editorial doesn’t hold much comfort: “the Japanese owner Mitsubishi no longer sees a future in car manufacture in Europe. [...] Europe is becoming less and less attractive to industrial companies [...] and that’s a sobering prospect.”
Concerns as euthanasia moves forward
De Volkskrant and Trouw report on a new development in euthanasia practice. De Volkskrant reports that, beginning in March, people who have been refused euthanasia by their own doctor will be able to call in one of six travelling teams. The groups, consisting of a doctor and a nurse, will be based in The Hague but will deal with cases throughout the country. The legal criteria that the patient must be in a situation of unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement will still apply.
Trouw reports that the association behind the plan, Right to Die NL, is “doing everything it can” to allay fears and objections. One such fear is that dedicated teams will develop a kind of tunnel vision and will focus too strongly on meeting the patient’s desire for euthanasia at the expense of other options. But the association tells the paper “It can just as easily turn out that the patient’s doctor was right to refuse euthanasia. It won’t be a case of ‘your wish is our command’.”
Contador: a fitting punishment?
All today’s papers have something to say about the punishment meted out to Alberto Contador, who has been banned and stripped of his recent titles after being found guilty of doping offences.
Under the headline “no mercy”, AD reports that “no less than 561 days after his 2010 Tour de France victory, Alberto Contador has to hand in his yellow jersey”. The controversial decision is a result of retrospective testing. The paper’s sports columnist reckons “the bizarrely slow decision-making in this case has done major damage to the sport of cycling” but nonetheless calls the result “a blessing for sport”. He argues that the tribunal “has shown guts” by determining that “the rules apply to everyone, even if your name is Alberto Contador”.
De Volkskrant’s columnist takes a more cynical view. “The sporting world has introduced a new game: who’ll win the Tour of five years ago? [...] The race is never won. It’s captured in test tubes and the next leg takes place in the labs.” He goes on to ask “What would it be like if we applied this moral cleaning frenzy in sport to the real world? [...] How many Nobel Prize winners would have to hand back their award?”