Nijmegen four day walk off to a good start

20th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

20 July 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Despite a possible terrorist threat which led to the arrest of two suspects at the weekend, a total of 44,598 people started out on the Nijmegen Four Day March on Tuesday morning. The participants, of all ages and nationalities, aim to cover 50, 40 or 30km every day.

20 July 2004

AMSTERDAM — Despite a possible terrorist threat which led to the arrest of two suspects at the weekend, a total of 44,598 people started out on the Nijmegen Four Day March on Tuesday morning. The participants, of all ages and nationalities, aim to cover 50, 40 or 30km every day.

This number is slightly less  than the record of 44,812 set in 2003. The four-day walk, now in its 87th year, is the largest such event in the world and starts on the third Tuesday of July every year.

The first walkers headed off at about 4am on Tuesday to walk through the Betuwe region, passing through the towns of Bemmel, Huissen, Arnhem and Elst. The route eventually winds back to Nijmegen where the quickest walkers were expected to arrive before midday.

There are almost 60 nationalities walking this year and the oldest walker is an 89-year-old man from Leidschendam. The youngest participant is an 11-year-old Nijmegen resident. One Dutch walker will be participating for the 60th time.

The estimated 5,000 soldiers participating in the event will only travel 40km each day, but will be required to carry backpacks weighing 10kg, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

A Nicaraguan City Mayor was reportedly one of those who were denied entry due to a limit imposed, while Dutch TV celebrity Theo van Gogh will participate illegally. He did not register, but has decided to walk anyway to publicise his new film "Cool".

A Nijmegen City Council spokesman said the atmosphere at the official opening of the event on Monday was not negatively influenced by the potential terrorism threat. "The atmosphere is very good, everyone is walking proudly and enthusiastically," he said.

Two men — of Syrian and Lebanese ancestry — were arrested by police who suspect they were planning an attack on soldiers participating in the walk. The Syrian — who speaks Dutch — has denied the allegations.

There are 2,000 Dutch and about 3,000 foreign troops involved in the grueling four-day walk this year, but it is not yet certain if the threat is linked to the terror alert the Dutch government issued on 9 July.

The Dutch secret service AIVD has warned the government that Islamic extremists might be preparing a terrorist attack. Security has since been tightened at government buildings and key Dutch infrastructure points.

[Copyright Expatica News + Novum Nieuws 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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