UTRECHT, Netherlands — The Netherlands is one of the top-medaling nations in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, with totals rivaling both the much larger Russia and United States. The Dutch practically own the podium in the speedskating events.
But still, there is always something to complain about in Holland.
Of course, the Dutch are proud of their success. Almost 3 million people – out of a population of 16 million – watched the men’s 10,000-meter speedskating live on TV last Tuesday afternoon. More than 4 million watched the medal ceremony that same evening and saw the golden, silver, and bronze medals once again awarded to an all-Dutch podium.
When the Dutch athletes – who have racked up 22 medals, including six golds, almost all in speedskating – return to the Netherlands next week, expect cheering, orange-clad fans to be waiting for them at the airport. And traditionally, each athlete is honored with a celebration in his or her hometown as well.
But there have nonetheless been a lot of Olympic-related complaints.
Take, for example, the Dutch king and queen’s exuberant cheering for and celebration of the Dutch speedskaters’ sweep of the 500-meter dash. Is this really how royalty should behave?
The Reformatorisch Dagblad thought not. In an editorial, the Dutch newspaper wrote that the king’s enthusiasm does not fit with the dignity of the position. “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child,” it quoted from the Bible.
The king has friends in high places, though. When Prime Minister Mark Rutte was asked in a press conference to reply to that criticism, he used the term “whiners” to characterize those who criticized the king’s enthusiasm as less than royal.
The amazing achievements by the Dutch speedskaters were noticed around the world. The Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Futterman wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about it, opening it with: “Everyone sick of watching the Dutch win speedskating medals, please raise your hand.”
Of course, that didn’t go down well with some Dutch fans. Mr. Futterman received hate mail for his scoffing of the Dutch skating success, and felt the need to apologize.
But perhaps the Dutch have become spoiled by success. The daily previews by Dutch media have often featured the question: Will there be another orange podium today? The expectations are high and that has also led to some disappointments.
Sven Kramer had wanted – and was expected – to win the men’s 10,000m speedskating. So when fellow Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma surprisingly beat him, Kramer was disappointed for ending up in second place. His face during the celebration of the silver medal that evening in the Dutch club in Sochi was not the most happy one – and of course Kramer was criticized for not appreciating his silver medal enough.
Perhaps it is all a manifestation of the Dutch Calvinist tradition. Or perhaps the critiques are now more easily noticeable because social media have given all 16 million Dutch the opportunity to voice their opinions.
One Dutch sports journalist wrote that with all this negativity, the Netherlands should be awardedjust one more medal. He suggested that the head of the International Olympic Committee should give the Netherlands a gold medal in the competition “Pessimism, nations.”