There are always flags up around town promoting upcoming events, whether it’s the latest Cultural Sunday or one of the many festivals that take place regularly in Utrecht. For the past few weeks, this rainbow of flags has been glowing in the summer sunshine throughout the city, reminding everyone that the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) was finally about to begin.
It may not garner the same attention as the regular Olympics, but the city has been counting down to the event for almost a year. A countdown clock stood in Neude square since last year, and during the first official visit to Utrecht by the new king and queen, the EYOF mascot was there to greet them on the Domplein, along with some of the athletes.
Dutch Olympic swimmer and triple medalist Pieter van den Hoogenband is the tournament director. He got his own start as an Olympic athlete when he took part in the 1993 edition of EYOF. He has been working hard to promote the Youth Olympics, which has around 3,000 young athletes participating this year.
If you want to follow the action, through the end of the week, you can follow @Utrecht_2013 on Twitter or visit the official website (be warned that the live feed starts automatically).
The flags aren’t the only signs of the event around town. Even many of the manhole covers have gotten in on the act, turning into medals. The city also made an attempt to dress up the ugliest building in town with a leaping basketball player emblazoned on the upper windows. The building is still ugly, but the spirit behind the youth Olympics is great. Congrats to all who are participating!
The 2010 edition of the Winter Olympics is now finished. What on earth will we watch in the evenings? I’ve seen more ski jumping and cross-country skating that I ever have before. Watching the Eurosport channel’s coverage of the Olympics is much different from watching the NBC coverage in the US. You get to see whole competitions instead of just a few bits and pieces. On the other hand, sometimes you end up missing whole sports. One thing that they didn’t seem to focus on quite as much was speed skating. You have to understand that for the Dutch, not focusing on speed skating is like not focusing on hockey in Canada. Skating is huge here!
Even if you’re not Dutch, you probably heard about poor Sven Kramer’s disaster in one of the races when his coach pointed him into the wrong lane. Poor Sven! A nation was heart-broken! Even I felt bad for the guy. And yes, I did know who he was before the Olympics. That’s how famous he is here. I like to think of that as another step in my unofficial inburgering (integration).
Friday night, at the Potdeksel, the tv came on for the speed skating and snowboarding events in which the Dutch were taking place. Everyone stopped to watch. Nicolien Sauerbreij won gold in the women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom, giving the Dutch their 100th winter Olympic medal! Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for the men’s team pursuit skating event. Worst of all, it came down to the Netherlands vs USA to see who would go to the finals. I was actually cheering for the Dutch team against the US team, even though it was the US team that eventually won the challenge. Surely, I must truly be integrating.
To be honest, I found myself somewhat removed from cheering for the US athletes in general. To be fair, that was the only time I was cheering against them, and there were plenty of times I wanted them to win. But I just didn’t feel a strong connection this time around. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the coverage I was watching was fairly neutral and not the big USA love-fest that I grew up watching. Perhaps it’s also because I’m trying to make my home here now. I’m not saying that we’ll never move back to the States, but it’s also not something that we’re honestly planning for the future, either.
Do I feel guilty for not feeling more patriotic? A bit. Mainly, I prefer to be multi-patriotic.