Dutch world and Olympic champion speed skaters have urged the government to bail out the Thialf ice stadium in Heerenveen which needs €20m over 10 years to ensure it can continue to offer top class training and other facilities.
Sven Kramer, Ireen Wust and Rintje Ritsma are among the skating stars who have written to the government calling for official support, the Telegraaf reported on Tuesday.
Douwe de Vries, from Dutch skating union KNSB, told the paper that it is now ‘five minutes to midnight’.
While the Dutch sports federation NOC*NSF, and local and provincial government support the stadium financially, the government’s input is also needed to complete the picture, he said.
The Netherlands’ performance at this season’s winter Olympics will be down almost entirely to Thialf, NOC*NSF technical director Maurits Hendriks said.
Research has shown that making the stadium financially self sufficient is not an option.
‘Show me a swimming pool or a theatre that is profitable’ Hendriks said. ‘Thialf is an important calling card. It is where champions are born and where we cheer them on. And those Olympic successes are the ones which inspire other youngsters to take up the sport.’
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