Dutch news in brief, Friday 8 August 2008

8th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

8 August 2008

Olympic fever kicks off
The 2008 Olympics are splashed all over today’s Dutch newspapers as the Beijing Games kicked off in Beijing on Friday. The orange-clad Dutch contingent, snapped at Thursday’s official welcome ceremony, beam out at the reader from the front pages of NRC Handelsblad and De Telegraaf.

AD gets straight down to business by listing the Netherlands' medal hopes on its front page. They include the women's hockey team, swimmer Marleen Veldhuis and dressage champion Anky van Grunsven and her horse Salinero.

"Eight gold medals within reach" the paper trumpets "Of course, we're going to make the top ten on the medals table!" Though they do end up by asking - "or are we being too optimistic?"

It must be said the Games haven't got off to a terribly auspicious start for the Netherlands. For scheduling reasons, the Dutch football team went into action a day ahead of the opening ceremony, but could do no better than a lacklustre goalless draw against Nigeria.

All the papers seem to agree on why.

"Overcome by the heat" exclaims De Telegraaf. "Footballers struggle in greenhouse" bemoans AD, adding that "under conditions this tough, it's impossible to play a decent match".

National coach Foppe de Haan concurs: "It was an oven in there - unbelievable!" Head of the Dutch delegation Charles van Commenée is looking on the bright side, however: "With a healthy dose of smog to keep the sun off, we'll be fine."

Amsterdam Games of 1928
Trouw opts for an Olympic flashback to the Amsterdam Games of 1928, which it proudly proclaims became "a model for the rest".

However, the paper reveals that it's a miracle the games were held in the Netherlands at all. In Queen Wilhelmina, the country had "a monarch with no sympathy whatsoever for sport in general and the Games in particular".

More to the point, the Christian majority in parliament were up in arms against the event. A spokesman for the Protestant ARP party decried "the heathen character" of the Games and warned that they would "stir youthful passions in a most unseemly manner".

A fellow party member noted that sport had become "an expression of brute force, a fairground of the vanities".

Particular objections were raised to the participation of women in sport "with short skirts, light clothing and bobbed hair". One politician observed disapprovingly that "a woman in the throes of sports-mania loses all sense of decency".

The MPs put their money where their mouths were and voted down a bill to subsidise the Games. However, an appeal to the population at large paid off and the Amsterdam Olympics eventually went down in the history books as a success - not least for being the first Olympics where women took part in the gymnastics and athletics events.

GreenLeft MP creates a stir
De Volkskrant features an interview with GreenLeft MP Wijnand Duyvendak whose revelations about his past exploits have caused quite a stir.

As a young activist in 1985 he was involved in a break-in at the Ministry of Economic Affairs during which documents on nuclear power plants were stolen. The paper reveals that the resulting political outcry almost brought down the government.

The revelations come in a book the MP has written about his past, accompanied by a press release in which he called the break-in "a great success". Fellow MPs objected to the "sense of pride" with which the MP referred to his illicit act.

The editorial in today's Trouw accuses him of "naïvely playing with fire by flirting with activism". In today's de Volkskrant interview, Duyvendak is sounding a little humbler: "At the time I thought the action was a success. But the break-in was very foolish. It means you're acting as judge and jury."

The GreenLeft MP was lambasted by the right-wing Freedom Party as a "common burglar" but de Volkskrant helpfully notes that under Dutch law everyone over 18 has the right to be elected to parliament - even if they're behind bars.

"It is up to political parties themselves to decide who they allow to stand for election and up to the voters to decide." However, the paper goes on to point out the nature of the moral obligation involved: "The people who voted for Duyvendak didn't know about The Break-In. But his party, GreenLeft, did."

Costa fortune?
De Telegraaf reports on an initiative by a Dutch housing association to build homes for their tenants on Spain's Costa Blanca. The paper comments that emigration to Spain has so far been the preserve of the moneyed classes but Rochdale Housing Association's plans to build a housing complex with 120 affordable homes is about to change all that, "reflecting the wishes of a growing number of people".

The target group is "active senior citizens looking for sunnier climes" and the scheme aims to accommodate their specific wishes "such as a nearby hospital where there are plenty of Dutch doctors".

While this all might seem a tad decadent, the housing association argues that it serves a very practical purpose by "attracting tenants who have a high income but who continue to live in cheaper rented accommodation" and freeing up much-needed homes on the Dutch market.

[Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica]

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