Expatica news

86,000 Flems back anti-French bike ride

6 September 2004

BRUSSELS – Over 86,000 Flemish people took to the streets of Brussels outer suburbs on Sunday in a sporty show of Flemish nationalism.

The organisers of the one day sporting event known as the Gordel said a total of 86,326 people took part.

The idea of the Gordel is to show that the communes around Brussels are Flemish and intend to stay that way.

The event was “more Flemish than ever” this year said the Gordel’s organisers.

The Gordel’s centre piece is a 100 kilometre cycle ride that takes in all of the Flemish communes that ring Brussels.

The sporting event is a major date in the Flemish calendar and leading Dutch speaking politicians including federal interior minister Patrick Dewael and Flemish labour minister Frank Vandenbroucke both attended.

Flemish people living on the outskirts of Brussels have traditionally been worried that more and more French speakers may move into their communes and eventually force the local authorities to use French as well as Dutch as an official language.

Tension between French and Dutch speakers bubbles under the surface in Belgium almost permanently causing a level of tension between the two communities that leaves many non-Belgians totally baffled.

But it has come to the fore again recently with the suggestion that one of Brussels bi-lingual communes – Brussels, Hal, Vilvoorde – should become Flemish speaking only.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news