Code Orange

To fans of international football, this entire entry will probably come as no surprise. To others, read on. (And before you international football fans disappear, here's a tease: tomorrow night I plan to find a local sports pub and watch the Juventus-Inter Milan match, just to see whether that might be where all this Torinese passion is living. I confess to not being particularly proficient in Euro soccer matters, but several people have told me that Juventus-Inter is Redskins-Cowboys and then some. A question: if the Redskins and Cowboys played a Sunday night game while the Olympics were in the District, which would get the higher television rating? Thoughts?

In fairness, yesterday it did seem like everybody in town was watching the Opening Ceremonies. It was like some bad movie scene where the President is addressing the world, and the movie cuts away to bars and restaurants and living rooms around the globe, and everybody is sitting together, watching, rapt, and nothing else matters. And then, together, as one people, we kill all the alien invaders, or blow up the asteroids, or whatever, and Aerosmith sings some bad song, although I think Bruce Willis tragically dies.

Every bar I walked past last night had the O.C. on. I walked past a Chinese restaurant, and everyone inside was watching. I walked past the train station, and about 20 people were bunched together in front of a television. It was touching.

Anyhow, tune in Monday morning for tales from Juventus-Inter.)

Now on to the Dutch. They were everywhere in the Oval Lingotto. My guess was 25 percent of the crowd. Others said closer to 40 percent. Les Carpenter said it was more than 50. This was for an event in which an Italian, Enrico Fabris, was a medal possibility, and actually wound up taking bronze.

I had first heard about the Dutch fascination with speedskating a few days ago, talking to American speedskater Kip Carpenter, who recently got engaged to a former Dutch speedskater. Kip said speedskaters are complete celebrities in Holland. (He also said that it was a long battle for him to convince his fiance that they should get married. "Dutch people really don't get married much any more," he said. "They just date forever and have kids. It's kind of modern to not get married. Marriage is kind of an old-school thing." He eventually won the battle, although the big day won't be for about a year. By the way, Kip has agreed to go watch some other random events with me once his races are over, so you can look forward to that.)

So I tried to spend this afternoon with Dutch fans, which was only marginally successful, because they completely lost their minds once any heat began. There was basically a line of media members waiting to talk with the most outlandishly costumed fans, who were very patient and extremely fluent in English but totally unwilling to abide by any distractions in the middle of the action.


Steinberg shows off a homemade Dutch duckbilled platypus hat after the men's 5,000-meter speedskating event.
The hats were the highlight. Dutch folks had orange jester hats, orange cone head hats, orange tiger hats, orange cow hats, orange duck hats, orange chicken hats, orange crown hats, orange balloon hats, orange baseball hats, orange bandanas, orange berets, orange hats that were attached to orange "Heidi" braids, orange cowboy hats, orange mad hatter hats, and homemade orange duckbilled platypus hats. (That's my description. Others have said they look more like orange tongue hats. I have a photo of myself in the tongue hat, and it might show up here eventually. It also might be in the Washington Post tomorrow.) There were also orange vests, orange scarves, orange shoelaces, orange Syracuse shirts and little kids whose hair was dyed orange.

Naturally, I asked some Dutch folks what the deal was (and they all spoke impeccable English.)

"Too much beer," explained Fokke Laanstra, who then pointed out that the concessionaires actually had no Budweiser left. "Shame on Budweiser," he said, although he actually likes the product, just not its shortage. As for the hats, "Every year there's a new hat," he said. "We win by hats. It's easy because we're the nicest color. When it's orange, you stand out in a crowd."

I also talked with Richard van der Pluym, Rutger de Vries and Jan-Willem Kisjes, three Ernst & Young consultants who were wearing pinstriped orange suits and had orange cloth chickens on their heads. They said that their plane ride into Turin was completely filled with Dutch people; they were staying for the speedskating and leaving tomorrow evening.

I also talked with Frank Dassen, who had made those duckbilled platypus tongue hats for himself and four family members. He said that speedskating was the third biggest sport in Holland, behind only soccer and cycling. Dassen and family are going to five speedskating events at these Games.

"Skating in the Netherlands, they make a party of it," he said. "They like to play music and dance, and when the Zamboni is on the ice they jump and sing along with the songs and have a nice day. And when they have nice clothes, they make it more funny."

The Dutch fans were exceedingly polite. They gave ovations to American Chad Hedrick, even when his fast time (within two one-hundredths of a second of an Olympic record) made it less likely that the Dutch would medal. They gave ovations to the Japanese, and the Germans, and the Canadians, and the Russians. The danced and had nice clothes, making it more funny.

Dassen and family also told me that the Heineken House is within walking distance of Oval Lingotto, so journalistic ethics require me to check out the Heineken House and see how it compares to Club Bud.

By Dan Steinberg |  February 11, 2006; 2:59 PM ET
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Orange is the Dutch "national" color: their national anthem begins (translated): "Wilhelm of Orange-Nassau, I am of German blood".

Posted by: Ruth Gutmann | February 11, 2006 04:36 PM

The "german blood" thing is funnier when you realize that Orange is in southern France!

How did the prince of a place near Avingon end up the ruler of the Netherlands?! Ah, European history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_of_Orange

Posted by: md 20/400 | February 11, 2006 05:51 PM

How the heck does Budweiser run out of beer? Do we need to outsource them to China too? Geez....then again, you know the crowd cannot hate America too much when they slam the bud.

Posted by: Diplomatbob | February 12, 2006 06:31 AM

Um, about the hat - is that a big nose, or a big [anatomical item found south of the "border"]?

Posted by: jhorstma | February 12, 2006 04:48 PM

Posted by: | February 13, 2006 09:25 AM

How do I get one of those giant orange duck-billed hats?

Posted by: rusty | February 14, 2006 03:16 PM

Isnīt that great?
The line in the national anthem by the way was: I am of īdietsch` blood. And hereby īDietsch`is kind of Northern Germany/Holland. Later it changed to `duitsch` Meanwhile in English it is still īdutch`and germany are called germans.
Oh whatever, we are all germanic stock.

Posted by: Dutch | February 17, 2006 06:04 AM

Orange is indeed the "national" color, not only because of the national anthem, but because the royal families name is "Oranje" (dutch for Orange).
The first verse of the national anthem in dutch is:
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
ben ik, van Duitsen bloed,
den vaderland getrouwe
blijf ik tot in den dood.
Een Prinse van Oranje
ben ik, vrij onverveerd,
den Koning van Hispanje
heb ik altijd geëerd.

In fact it says that:
The predecessors of Wilhelmus (Latin for William) came from Germany (from German blood). Then the versie continues with saying that "I will be faithful to my country") and "I am a prince of Orange" being "free and without fear" and "I always honoured the king of Spain".
The king of Spain was king of the Netehrlands for a long while during the 80-year war (1568-1648).

Posted by: Jaap, The Netherlands | February 28, 2006 06:15 AM

Orange is indeed the "national" color, not only because of the national anthem, but because the royal families name is "Oranje" (dutch for Orange).
The first verse of the national anthem in dutch is:
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
ben ik, van Duitsen bloed,
den vaderland getrouwe
blijf ik tot in den dood.
Een Prinse van Oranje
ben ik, vrij onverveerd,
den Koning van Hispanje
heb ik altijd geëerd.

In fact it says that:
The predecessors of Wilhelmus (Latin for William) came from Germany (from German blood). Then the versie continues with saying that "I will be faithful to my country") and "I am a prince of Orange" being "free and without fear" and "I always honoured the king of Spain".
The king of Spain was king of the Netehrlands for a long while during the 80-year war (1568-1648).

Posted by: Jaap, The Netherlands | February 28, 2006 06:15 AM

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