January 11, 2009

Thaw to set in

Filed under: General,Sports by Branko Collin @ 2:29 pm

No Elfstedentocht for now. National weather institute KNMI predicts that Monday a period of thaw will set in, with wind coming from the South and from the South West. That also means that the country will not have had an official cold wave, which in the Netherlands is defined as at least five consecutive days of frost of which three dip below -10 degrees.

Somebody who won’t be skating for a while anyway is Eimer van Middelkoop: the defense minister broke his wrist during a 30 kilometer skating tour between Bleiswijk and Zevenhuizen, according to Nu.nl (Dutch).

Skating madness held the country in its grip the past weeks, but with the temperature dipping the lowest in the South, the madness spilled over to Belgium. The spokesperson for Vereniging De Friesche Elf Steden, the organizer of the Elfstedentocht, told BN/De Stem (Dutch) that most foreign journalistic attention stems from our Southern neighbours. One fanatic Belgian skater and past participant in the Elfstedentocht, Henri Jaecques, argues in Het Nieuwsblad (Dutch) that Flanders should have its own mythical skate race. “From Sluis to Ieper, 200 kilometer, and perfectly skateable.” The first part of that trajectory, a 16 kilometer strip from Sluis to Brugge, was declared officially open to skaters this weekend, according to De Telegraaf (Dutch).

Photo top: a chair in IJburg, Amsterdam awaiting the next novice skater or an ever grimmer fate.

Photo bottom: a frozen Noorderamsterkanaal.

Link: Weer.nl (Dutch).

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January 9, 2009

Elfsteden update: 25,000 litres of pea soup and 80,000 smoked sausages

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:07 am

Soup and sausage manufacturer Unox are busy producing 25,000 litres of pea soup and 80,000 smoked sausages in time for a possible Elfstedentocht, reports Zibb.nl. The company wants to have 25 stands with volunteers from among its own ranks during the classic 200-kilometer skating race. Should the race take place, the volunteers will hand out the soup, sausages and hats.

Jort Kelder, the country’s most famous documenter of the rich, and side-kick Harry Veenendaal don’t like Unox and its plans very much. In NRC they urge culture minister Plasterk to hurry and apply for a Unesco Intangible Heritage status for the Elfstedentocht (Dutch) to protect the race from commercial interests. Kelder and Veenendaal point to the New Year’s Dive (Dutch), where the sausage giant apparently even got the riot police to keep out the riff-raff that wasn’t going to pay 2 euro to enter a public beach and participate in a traditional event.

Are we going to have an Elfstedentocht? Many Frisians are fuming at the local waterboard (AD, Dutch) which decided to open the sluices in order to drain excess water, resulting in a partial destruction of the ice layer on the brooks, canals and rivers along the Elfsteden route. The waterboard defended its decision by pointing out that moving ice could damage quays and banks.

According to Dutchnews, it should freeze minus 10 degrees or better for at least two weeks before the ice is strong enough to support the 16,000 lucky skaters of the Elfstedentocht—which, by the way, rhymes with Van Gogh. Although it’s been freezing now for over a week, the frost has mainly stuck to the Southern half of the country, with Friesland even experiencing some thaw earlier this week.

Photo of the 1997 Elfstedentocht by Tjeerd van der Werk, used under the conditions of the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2.

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