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Olympic medalists welcomed home by crowds of well wishers

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HAARLEM / THE HAGUE – The Dutch Olympic Winter Games team has returned home to a hero’s welcome at Schiphol, Haarlem and The Hague, all welcomingnational events. Hundreds of fans were on hand as the KLM flight from Vancouver landed at the airport, and many thousands crowded the Haarlem market square, especially to catch a glimpse of marathon skater Sven Kramer and his coach Gerard Kemkers.

Security agents were challenged to keep Kramer from surging crowds. As he mounted the event’s platform, the speed skater was greeted by enormous applause from the crowd.

Coach Kemkers who had sent the skater into the wrong lane in the 10 kilometre competition in the Richmond Oval skating rink, which disqualified Sven Kramer for the gold medal, received plenty of support from an apparently very forgiving crowd. Kramer told the event’s master of ceremonies that he had enjoyed the Dutch sense of humor about Kemkers’ gaffe in Vancouver. Several Dutch joke advertisements purporting to be representing the Dutch Railways firm NS have the coach as spokesman highlighting in a play on words ‘baan veranderende’ job opportunities, perhaps as machinist? Another portrays Kramer’s traffic ticket for driving left, teasing him for having taking the left lane.

The following morning the 2010 Winter Olympic team, which ranks an impressive tenth overall in the medal count, called on Premier Balkenende’s office where the Olympic medalists were knighted by Health Minister Ab Klink in the Order of Orange-Nassau. The next appointment was at Palace Noordeinde for the customary audience with Queen Beatrix and Prince Willem-Alexander, who would have been no longer a distant official to them following his presence at the Vancouver Games. The medal winners were then officially presented to the nation and onlookers outside from the balcony of the palace, flanked by their royal hosts.

Thronged and delayed by the crowds the medalists returned to the Binnenhof for more ceremonies. Each medalist also awaited another boisterous welcome at home as well. Sven Kramer declined such a welcome in his home city of Heerenveen. He apparently is not quite finished with his disappointment of not bringing home the 10K speed skating gold medal.