2021 Elfstedentocht? Dutch cabinet in favour of ice skating competition as Netherlands freezes

As the temperature of the Netherlands continues to plummet under a blanket of snow, the decommissioned cabinet has something other than coronavirus to discuss โ€” ice skating. How can skaters remain safe during a pandemic? And what about the Elfstedentocht?

The cabinet will meet with the safety regions and skating unions this week to discuss what to do in the event of skating competitions such as the Elfstedentocht โ€” a classic Dutch long-distance skating event. A majority of the House of Representatives want the Elfstedentocht to go ahead if it is possible to do so safely. In yesterday’s press conference, Rutte offered a few of the cabinet’s current solutions.

Ice skating bubbles

One possibility would be an approach similar to that taken by professional track competitions. In these competitions, the skaters had to live together in one big bubble of 200 people. This way, they could not infect each other with coronavirus.

Of course, this option is not feasible for anyone who wants to take part in skating competitions. For this reason, the cabinet is considering only allowing 120 top skaters to compete. “Perhaps something can be done with top skaters. We are working on it,” Rutte said during the conference.

What about Elfstedentocht?

The Elfstedentocht is a 200-kilometre long Dutch skating tour/competition that is held in the province of Friesland. Participants skate on along frozen canals that run through eleven historical towns of the province.

The Elfstedentocht only occurs when the canals are frozen with at least 15 cm of ice, meaning that they have become less and less frequent over the past few years. In fact, some believe another Elfstedentocht is not possible!

However, with extreme freezing temperatures forecast for the Netherlands this year, the government has to come up with a game plan.

No audience and only top skaters

Due to the pandemic, should the Elfstedentocht actually become possible, only top skaters may be allowed to participate, Rutte has said. “An Elfstedentocht with the public, that’s not possible,” the decommissioned prime minister said. Usually, up to 15,000 amateur skaters would take part โ€” not ideal for social distancing.

Along with many skaters, the event would usually attract a huge audience; again, not ideal for a pandemic. For this reason, in the event of a 2021 Elfstedentocht there will be no audience allowed. “What is not possible is public,” Rutte said.

A long way off

The decommissioned cabinet will meet with the Eleven Cities Association, the association in charge of the Elfstedentocht (yes, that’s a thing) to discuss potential measures further. However, Rutte emphasised that while temperatures are certainly freezing, “an Elfstedentocht is still a long way off.”

How would you feel about a 2021 Elfstedentocht? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: J. Ketelaars/Pixabay

Sarah O'Leary ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช
Sarah originally arrived in the Netherlands due to an inability to make her own decisions โ€” she was simply told by her mother to choose the Netherlands for Erasmus. Life here has been challenging (have you heard the language) but brilliant for Sarah, and she loves to write about it. When Sarah is not acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her sitting in a corner of Leiden with a coffee, trying to sound witty.


  1. If thereโ€™s another Elfstedentoch I will be there. Just tell me when and where and I will make the journey from Chicago!! ๐Ÿ˜


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