Time to confess! I haven’t always been a royalty watcher only. Now the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, are going on and the Dutch are doing quite well, I thought of having a look into my scrapbooks and diary of the Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer in February 1994. I have always been a lousy sporter but for quite some years I loved going to speedskating races. We didn’t live too far away from Heerenveen, where the main ice rink of the Netherlands is situated, so when I managed to get tickets for something I went. Dutch championships, but also European and World Championships. I saw all the stars of these days (about 1985-1995) skate – also the present King Willem-Alexander by the way, also a huge fan – but we also used to applaud for the lesser good ones. There were times that you could easily talk to your idols, get signatures, photos, I’ve even once or twice been in the dressing rooms. No way that will happen nowadays.
In February 1994 a friend and I travelled by car and boat all the way to Norway for the Olympic Winter Games of Lillehammer. In my diary I read things I can’t even remember anymore. We were staying at the youth hostel in Oslo and everybody was completely into Olympic mood, and if we weren’t on the road, we were of course watching television. These days were quite an experience. Of course we had a look at Oslo and we were also in Hamar a lot, as that was where the speedskating was. Myself I travelled by bus to Lillehammer one day to see the Olympic flame and stadium. The big hit these days were the Olympic pins. I actually even met a French lady who only had come to Lillehammer to get some. I must have them somewhere, as even if you wouldn’t pay it was easy to get them.
As you can see on the pictures I wore a handmade Olympic sweater with Olympic rings, Lillehammer 1994 on it and the Dutch and Norwegian flags. I just read in the diary that some Americans really wanted to take a picture of it. We of course regularly visited the Holland House, where we also saw Willem-Alexander a few times. No pictures, sorry, not even of him drinking a beer. These were pre-digital times. The diary says that we were trying to ask for a photo with him on his last night, but when we finally dared to approach him he was leaving and we didn’t get the chance anymore. King Harald V of Norway had his birthday on 21 Februar. We were in the Vikingship, where the speedskating was being held, and were supposed to sing for him. Unfortunately the song was in Norwegian, and there weren’t too many Norwegians around to sing along.
On our last day I had a really funny experience in the Holland House. In these days there was a nice young Dutch speedskater called Tonny de Jong, just a bit younger than me. Like me she had long blond hair. She had skated rather good although she never won any Olympic medal (nor in the two games to follow). I was actually standing near her with some fans and other skaters when someone said “You skated well. Did you skate a personal record?” Tonny answered, I didn’t really look up, until someone touched my shoulder repeating the question. A misunderstanding I though, because of the sweater and long hair, and of course not everyone present was a huge speedskating fan.
A while later a VIP told me: “You can go into that room. You are a skater are you?” Well, no not really, but curious enough I went inside anyway and drinks were free. Doors closed – help! IOC-members, Dutch Olympic Committee members, speeches. Funny enough the fans – who except for me – weren’t in the room, were thanked for having made the games and the Holland House into such a great games. I heard later they hadn’t let any other fan in. There were several more VIPs that evening thinking I was a speedskater, guess the sweater helped. My mother’s work received lots of compliments, and could easily pass for being part of the Dutch Olympic clothing. I could say again and again I wasn’t a speedskater, but nobody seemed to believe me. I was even photographed, received free pins, was congratulated several times for my great performance as a speedskater. So even if I have never been a good sporter, nor an Olympian, for a short while I really was a bit of an Olympic star.