Dutch news in brief, Friday 15 August 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.15 August 2008
Day of farewells for the Netherlands
It's a day for farewells in the Dutch press, with three very different public figures bowing out of the limelight for very different reasons.
GreenLeft MP Wijnand Duyvendak
The most high profile departure is GreenLeft MP Wijnand Duyvendak, whose activist past has placed him at the centre of a storm of controversy all week.
To quote De Telegraaf, "the inevitable has happened" and today's front pages feature a very glum Duyvendak announcing his resignation.
GreenLeft leader Femke Halsema describes the MP's resignation as "a terrible blow to the party" and says she will miss "a colleague of extraordinary integrity" and an "unparalleled expert" on environmental issues.
Others are less forgiving, however. Trouw comments that "It wasn't his image but his beating around the bush that finished him off" and criticises Duyvendak for playing the activist card while trying to distance himself from his former comrades.
De Telegraaf shows no mercy. "No one should be shedding a single tear about the departure of this man," the paper fulminates. The paper also dismisses "cowardly" Duyvendak's claim that he's "not the same man he was back in the 1980s" as "the feigned integrity of someone who's been driven into a tight corner".
Swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband
By way of contrast, the papers can't find enough superlatives to pay tribute to swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband, who has announced his retirement after coming a disappointing fifth in the Olympic men's 100m freestyle final.
"The departure of a perfect Olympian" says AD, featuring a heartwarming snap of Van den Hoogenband receiving a comforting cuddle from his granny.
"A regal abdication" is the headline in NRC Handelsblad, who describes him as "the greatest swimmer in Dutch history" - and with justification given his medal haul of three gold, two silver and two bronze from four Olympic Games.
De Telegraaf says his retirement marks "the end of an Olympic era for the Dutch Dolphin" - a time when "only the very best swimmer had a chance of ascending to the throne".
With more than a hint of bitterness the paper described how "a muscleman in a space-age suit" has changed all that: "Alain Bernard - the embodiment of The New Age of Swimming".
Fashion designer Percy Irausquin
The papers also bid a fond farewell to upcoming Dutch fashion designer Percy Irausquin, who was found dead at his home yesterday, apparently after slipping in the shower. He was only 39.
The press praise Irausquin, who was born on the Caribbean island of Aruba, as "one of the most talented young designers in the Netherlands". According to de Volkskrant, his designs were "fashionable but not fussy" and "sexy and extravagant". He was a favourite of the Dutch celebrity set.
As a final tribute the paper lets Irausquin speak for himself: "I'm not one for complicated ideas. I'm not an innovator. I don't want to change the world. I just want to make it more beautiful."
De Volkskrant features a sinister report about copper thieves who have turned to new hunting grounds since the railways and the churches have tightened up security. They are now targeting cemeteries, "stealing statues and vases from people's final resting place with all of the emotional consequences for the families of the deceased."
A spokesman for the funeral business thinks the problem is more widespread than we realise: "Some cemeteries keep it quiet out of respect for the deceased and their families."
But he hopes that by speaking out, he will cause a public outcry and make the criminals think twice. Prevention is difficult: "Cemeteries are public places where people come to say goodbye and to remember their loved ones. We don't want to turn them into fortresses."
Nine out of 10 approve of neighbours
Anyone who's been following the Dutch press in recent years could sometimes be mistaken for thinking that the Netherlands is a society in meltdown: tales of mounting tension and intolerance abound. So it comes as quite a relief to read in today's AD that "most Dutch people are happy with their neighbours”.
In a recent survey, nine out of 10 Dutch people described their neighbours as "nice acquaintances or good friends".
"We are pleasantly surprised at the results," beams one of the organisers. "It seems there's less truth than we thought to the rumours of a smouldering civil war in our town and cities."
The Dutch don't come much more neighbourly than Petra Verhoeven, who was voted Best Neighbour in the country in 2007. She found time to talk to AD in the midst of organising a neighbourhood barbecue.
"It's fun and rewarding work. After all, there's enough trouble in the world."
[Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica]
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