Press Review Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Today's Dutch headlines are dominated by the imminent departure of a financial bigwig and the arrival of a billionaire football-club owner. There's also partying and problems for fresh-faced students, the dramatic death of a young sportsman and the tale of a Dutch guide caught in India's mudslides.
The news that the days of the head of the Dutch Central Bank DNB Nout Wellink are numbered is all over this morning’s front pages. While Trouw and de Volkskrant are fairly matter of fact about it all, leading with “Wellink will have to leave the bank in 2011”, others are more dismissive. AD goes with “Nout Wellink sent packing”, while De Telegraaf writes “DNB president can kiss reappointment goodbye”.
The DNB has been under fire for quite some time for failing to carry out its duties as a financial watchdog with sufficient resolve. The wave of criticism had left Mr Wellink in a pretty much untenable position. But simply firing the president of the central bank would have been unprecedented, and as nrc.next puts it “tantamount to destroying the Netherlands’ monetary and financial reputation”. Instead finance minister Jan Kees de Jager has changed the law so that any future president can only stay on for a maximum of two seven-year terms. And as coincidence would have it, Mr Wellink’s second term is up next year.
De Volkskrant describes the construction as “a dignified political solution to get rid of Nout Wellink”. Nrc.next takes a different perspective. The paper’s editorial notes that “the finance minister’s move may look like decisive action but in fact it’s gratuitous and, more seriously, downright harmful.” The paper reckons that by taking action against Mr Wellink’s damaged reputation, Mr De Jager has damaged the authority of the institute itself. The paper concludes “That’s ill-considered to put it mildly. A finance minister really should know better.”
Vitesse FC’s saviour: too good to be true? The other big story of the day is that Arnhem-based football club Vitesse has been taken over by Georgian billionaire businessman Merab Jordania. It’s a historic development for the Netherlands, as nrc.next points out that Vitesse “is the first Dutch club to fall into foreign hands”. In De Telegraaf, the chairman of the strapped-for-cash club on the verge of relegation describes the deal as “heaven sent” and in nrc.next he proclaims “we are no longer playing in the World Cup for survivors – Vitesse is going for the league title!”
But the papers have their reservations. AD refers to “Vitesse’s saviour” as “dubious” and De Telegraaf points out that he was arrested in his native Georgia for tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement, charges the man himself dismisses as “politically motivated”. De Volkskrant concedes that “it would be all too easy to condemn Jordania in advance when we still know so little about him” but at the same time it observes ruefully that “football is increasingly becoming the plaything of men with too much money”.
Trials and tribulations of entering student life The start of the academic year is just around the corner and the steady trickle of photos of carousing students being wooed by their prospective alma maters has already begun. AD’s front page features a bevy of beer-swilling blondes, while De Telegraaf shows a number of students partaking in what it calls “hilarious games of dexterity”, which inevitably appear to involve crates of beer too. Trouw features a photo of a rather sheepish looking Utrecht student being ushered down a red carpet by men in regency costume for no apparent reason.
But the paper also suggests that it’s not all fun and games for the latest batch of students, as the desperate shortage of student accommodation is leading to the “humiliating screening” of prospective tenants. One concerned mother reports that her daughter was asked to send in a photo of herself in a bikini as part of her application. “If you’re a good-looking girl with the gift of the gab, you’ll get a room no problem.” Student fraternities and sororities organise parties to screen potential residents and apparently it’s a pretty ruthless and mercenary business. Bringing along drinks or baked goodies can enhance your chances but even that isn’t always enough. The head of the National Student Federation says the main complaint is the arbitrariness of it all: “students are never told why they were turned down”. So much for the carefree student life …
Dramatic death of top rowing talent Today’s de Volkskrant features a two-page spread on the dramatic death of a young sportsman. Daan Brühl, described as “one of the most talented rowers in the Netherlands”, stabbed himself in the heart aged just 19 as his girlfriend looked on. The paper describes it paradoxically as “the bizarre death of a happy young man”. Daan’s family and girlfriend talked to de Volkskrant in order to set the record straight about the tragic event. “It wasn’t suicide,” insists the athlete’s mother “Daan was happy. He had just found the love of his life.”
So what did cause such a promising young sportsman to end his life in such dramatic fashion? Sporting disappointment seems to have played an important part: the rower had just returned from an under-23s World Cup regatta, where he made an error that sent his team crashing out in the early rounds. Daan’s father puts his son’s untimely death down to a tragic combination of circumstances, compounded by the effects of partying at the end of the rowing season. “Drink, smoking grass, lack of sleep, caffeine pills, a body that had trained hard for months on end and his guilt at making the mistake that cost his team the race … if he had been well rested, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”
Dutch guide survives Indian mudslides AD also covers a dramatic personal story: that of a Dutch travel guide stranded for nine days in a Himalayan valley amid the recent spell of extreme weather that battered northern India and caused mudslides that have left at least 150 people dead. Jan Dost had just embarked on a 350-kilometre mountain trek with two German tourists and a support team of three when the weather turned ugly. “All the roads around us were washed away. There was mud and water everywhere. We couldn’t go on or go back.”
In the end it was the heroic efforts of his support team who saved him. They went off in search of help after three days “over mountains and rocks and through the river, risking their own lives.” The Dutchman remains undaunted despite the ordeal. “I start my next trek in a week’s time. The chances of this happening again are slim, I reckon. I won’t let that stop me. If you ask me, the Himalayas is the most wonderful place in the world.”
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