During the opening ceremony of the current Winter Olympics, NBC presenter Katie Couric commented the following when the delegation from the Netherlands was making their rounds through the stadium:

It is probably not a news flash to tell you the Dutch are really, really good at speed skating. All but five of the 110 medals they’ve won have been on the speed skating oval. Now, ‘Why are they so good?’ you may be asking yourselves. Because skating is an important mode of transportation in a city like Amsterdam which sits at sea level. As you all know, it has lots of canals that can freeze in the winters. So, for as long as those canals have existed, the Dutch have skated on them to get from place to place, to race each other, and also to have fun.

(source: Business Insider)

The article mentions it's bogus; I'm Dutch, and while I do like skating on natural ice, I've never used it to travel and I do not know anyone who did either. Also, most winters the ice doesn't even get thick enough to skate except on rinks and ponds.

I've heard this particular myth before, and I was wondering if there's anything known about its origins; who coined it, or where was it mentioned first?

1 Answer 1


The International Business Times said that 4 years ago. Since there is no further citation it's safe to assume that they are responsible for this.

Of course it's nonsense. Speed Skating has a long tradition in the Netherlands and is the 2nd most popular sport there (after football) or number 7 in terms of active members (2015). Also skating on the river in Amsterdam was possible the last time in 2012, so traveling on that one would make the dutch athletes good swimmers rather than skaters.

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    I looked up the membership count - found 2016 at the national Olympic Committee site. Speed skating is not even in the top 15. But it's a popular TV item during winter. Feb 14, 2018 at 19:51
  • It's not just about plain numbers... Since you need special facilities (race tracks) for that the options are obviously limited. But they still have three times more of them than the USA, which is a lot for such a small country. Popularity also means fans, attention, etc. which then bring sponsors, more people trying to take part,.. They can select the best out of more people and train them under the best conditions. That's how world class athletes are born.
    – dly
    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:17
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    That doesn't address the point: speed-skating is simply not the second-most popular sport in the Netherlands. Please correct the statement that is incorrect otherwise.
    – Nij
    Feb 20, 2018 at 8:55
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    @Nij It addresses the point very well, but some people seem to understand popularity as how many members a sport has, which is just wrong, especially when you need special facilities and equipment. Don't forget the fans! Or is Formula One not popular because they only have about 20 drivers?
    – dly
    Feb 20, 2018 at 9:14
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    usatoday.com/story/sports/winter-olympics-2018/2018/02/17/… ... "Furthermore, it is a national obsession second only to soccer, with professional teams and a well-oiled infrastructure."
    – dly
    Feb 20, 2018 at 9:50

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