Eleven years ago, after a disappointing winter game in Vancouver, IOC member Hein Verbrooken knew what the Netherlands lacked in the quest for Olympic victory: money and mental hardship. To be one of the best sports nations in the world, you have to be “ruthless,” he said, “Dutch.” Telegraph. In addition, the government needed at least a “half-billion check” to get closer to rivals such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Italy. His advice: “Give up the first ten goals.”
Now, eleven years later, the Netherlands is heading to its most successful Summer Olympics. After a tough start, ‘TeamNL’ had 31 medals by the end of the weekend, already breaking Sydney’s (2000) 25 old record. With nine golds, the Netherlands also ranks in the top ten.
Coincidence? A sudden change of mood is not possible and half a billion government checks have not arrived. In twenty years, the general cost of the best game has doubled to about 50 million euros a year. It is relatively moderate by international standards. Nevertheless, the Dutch Olympic achievements – first and foremost the achievement of athletes – are the result of Dutch excellent sports policy.
Game success is possible, research shows. According to Weirley de Poscher, Professor of Sports Management at Vrije University Brussels, Half of a country’s Olympic results depend on population size and national income. The remaining half can train together, determined by the quality of training centers, talent recognition and development, financial assistance for the best athletes, and the most easy factors to influence their careers during and after their careers.
More important: Taking exams, says Hans Westerbeek, professor of international sports business at Victoria University in Melbourne. It pays to invest all of the available money in sports, which offers relatively more medals. With Verle de Passcher (and others), Westerbeek A comparative study a few years ago For best sports policy in fifteen countries including the Netherlands, France, Japan, South Korea and Australia. Only Australia (44 medals in Tokyo) won better than the Netherlands.
One year after the Dutch victory in Tokyo, the Netherlands had the same Olympic ambitions ten years earlier. Inspired by the Dutch conquests of 2000, the sports umbrella NOC-NSF was the driving force behind this. In Sydney, the Dutch team won 25 medals, mainly thanks to cyclist Leontian van Moorcel and swimmers Ing de Bruyne and Peter van den Hookenband. This made it to the top ten in the medal table for the first time. After ‘Sydney’, it became the official ambition of the NOC-NSF: structurally one of the top ten sports nations in the world.
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But already in 2012, with the alliance agreement of Route II, the Olympic program was canceled due to the declining support among the 2028 population. It can be very expensive at a time of economic uncertainty. However, the cabinet continued to support the ambition to “bring the Dutch sport to the Olympic level”.
Due to this, more money went to the Dutch Olympic Games. It was hesitant but fruitful. Did not reach the top ten after Sydney. However, the Dutch Olympic team came close to finishing 12th (Beijing 2008), 13th (London 2012) and 11th (Rio 2016). At the Winter Games, Nagano has been in the top ten of the Dutch team since 1998, mainly thanks to the high number of skating medals.
The Netherlands has invested in many areas. The best sports facilities like the ‘Swimming Lab’ in Indovan were introduced where the swimmer could train with the latest equipment. For example, underwater cameras can be used to measure which angle a swimmer should dive into. The traditional stopwatch was converted to laptops on the edge of the bath. Papandel, the national sports center, has a sophisticated track record of nearly a million euros, where top athletes like Femke (bronze, 400m hurdles, among others).
Other investments went to coaches, physical and mental comfort, scientific support, nutritionists, innovation projects, skill development. As Hans Westerbeek calls it, the Netherlands has come back from its ‘honest-we-share-all policy’. NOC-NSF has reduced the number of top sports projects investing from 180 in 2012 to 68 in 2016. Only sports associations that are considered capable of winning Olympic medals can rely on more solid funds — a policy that is constantly on fire.
The outgoing technical director of the policy designer NOC-NSF Moritz Hendrix will be seen confirming his ownership in Tokyo. Not only because of the top ten rankings, but also because of the various games that the Netherlands have been successful at. The Netherlands traditionally won medals from fields such as swimming and rowing, but also, for example, BMX, track cycling and boxing.
The remaining question is: why does the Netherlands want this so badly? Rutte I Cabinet wrote in a letter to the House in 2010 about ‘our passion and national pride’. Also, the best game can have a ‘positive image for the recreational game’. But Westerbeek says game success has never been proven to lead to more sports enthusiasts. On and off A term model Since 2016, „Experienced pride and the value of connecting the Dutch people with the best sport, […] To confiscate “. For obscure reasons.
Sports enthusiast Westerbeek is the ‘villain’ as a source of inspiration for the Olympics. You might even wonder if it is the government’s job to fund top sports. “But then be honest and clear about the goals: Entertainment and marketing the Netherlands brand internationally.”
Version of this article also appeared on 7 August 2021 on NRC Handlesplot
A version of this article also appeared in the NRC on the morning of August 7, 2021
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