en-fr  Of medals and melting - What climate change means for the Netherlands’ Olympic skaters
Des médailles et du fond — Ce que le changement climatique signifie pour les patineurs olympiques des Pays-Bas.

Dans le pays des champions du patinage de vitesse, les canaux gelés sont de plus en plus rares.

Les Néerlandais sont au patinage de vitesse sur longue piste ce que les Kénians sont au marathon. Lorsque les patineurs néerlandais sont arrivés la semaine dernière aux Jeux Olympiques d'hiver à Pyeongchang, leur plus grande peur était de faire moins bien qu'en 2014 lorsqu'ils ont gagné 23 des 36 médailles. Cette année, ils ont pris un autre départ rapide en conquérant l'or, l'argent et le bronze au 3000 mètres féminin. Les vedettes des équipes masculine et féminine, Sven Kramer et Ireen Wüst, ont chacune remporté l'or.

Mais l'ambiance à l'association nationale de patinage n'est pas entièrement étincelante. L'excellence du patinage de vitesse néerlandais découle de la place spéciale du sport dans la culture nationale. Chaque hiver, le pays attend anxieusement une vague de froid assez longue pour geler les voies d'eau qui marquent son paysage plat et bas. Ensuite, des millions de Néerlandais prennent la glace, passant de ville en ville le long des lacs et des canaux. Pourtant, ces dernières années, ces vagues de froid sont devenues rares.

“In the old days, three- or four-year-olds would be put out on the ice on beginner’s skates, pushing a chair. Without natural ice you lose the youth,” says J.W. Baarslag, an ijsmeester (icemaster) in the town of Veenoord. Artificial ice rinks do not hold the same appeal. A third of Dutch households own speed skates, but a survey in 2017, a mild winter, found just 17% of those who owned them had used them in the previous year.

In cold winters icemasters play a crucial role, checking to ensure the ice is thick enough. When it is, volunteer ijsverenigingen (“ice associations”) spring into action, sweeping away snow and organising routes between towns. Canal-side hot-chocolate stands pop up, and the landscape acquires the cheery feel of an outdoor carnival. Skaters carry tickets, which can be stamped at way-stations on the ice; those who show fully stamped cards collect a medal. Some join gruelling marathons such as the Elfstedentocht, a 200km race between 11 northern towns that leaves skaters with frost-caked brows and bleeding ankles.

For the past four years the ice associations have been idle. The national weather service rates winters using the Hellmann index, the inverse of the sum of daily average temperatures below zero. Those above 100 are considered cold. From 1901-80 there were seven winters above 200. But the last time the index exceeded 100 was in 1997, which was also the last freeze thick enough for an Elfstedentocht. In 2014, for the first time since measurements began in 1901, it fell to zero: not a single day had an average temperature below freezing. This winter, as of February 15th, it stands at 4.8.

The Dutch have been skaters since medieval times, when peasants strapped gliders made of bone to their shoes. The world’s oldest metal-bladed skates, dating from the 13th century, have been found in Amsterdam and Dordrecht. The government is subsidising more artificial long-track rinks. But scenes like Pieter Bruegel’s paintings of village festivals on the ice are ever rarer. Some fear the Elfstedentocht may never be skated again.

https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21737056-land-champion-speed-skaters-frozen-canals-are-ever-rarer-what-climate-change-means?frsc=dg%7Ce
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Of medals and melting - What climate change means for the Netherlands’ Olympic skaters.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 8 months, 3 weeks ago
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In the land of champion speed skaters, frozen canals are ever rarer.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 8 months, 3 weeks ago
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WHAT Kenyans are to marathons, the Dutch are to long-track speed skating.
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The stars of the men’s and women’s teams, Sven Kramer and Ireen Wüst, have each won gold.
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But the mood at the national skating association is not entirely sparkling.
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The excellence of Dutch speed-skating stems from the sport’s special place in national culture.
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Then millions of Dutch take to the ice, zipping from town to town along lakes and canals.
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Yet in recent years such cold spells have grown rare.
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Without natural ice you lose the youth,” says J.W.
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Baarslag, an ijsmeester (icemaster) in the town of Veenoord.
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Artificial ice rinks do not hold the same appeal.
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For the past four years the ice associations have been idle.
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Those above 100 are considered cold.
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From 1901-80 there were seven winters above 200.
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This winter, as of February 15th, it stands at 4.8.
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The government is subsidising more artificial long-track rinks.
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Some fear the Elfstedentocht may never be skated again.
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Of medals and melting - What climate change means for the Netherlands’ Olympic skaters.

In the land of champion speed skaters, frozen canals are ever rarer.

WHAT Kenyans are to marathons, the Dutch are to long-track speed skating. As the Netherlands’ skaters arrived last week at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, their biggest fear was of failing to do better than in 2014, when they won 23 of the 36 medals. This year they got off to another flying start, sweeping gold, silver and bronze in the women’s 3,000 metres. The stars of the men’s and women’s teams, Sven Kramer and Ireen Wüst, have each won gold.

But the mood at the national skating association is not entirely sparkling. The excellence of Dutch speed-skating stems from the sport’s special place in national culture. Each winter the country waits anxiously for a cold snap long enough to freeze the waterways that mark its low, flat landscape. Then millions of Dutch take to the ice, zipping from town to town along lakes and canals. Yet in recent years such cold spells have grown rare.

“In the old days, three- or four-year-olds would be put out on the ice on beginner’s skates, pushing a chair. Without natural ice you lose the youth,” says J.W. Baarslag, an ijsmeester (icemaster) in the town of Veenoord. Artificial ice rinks do not hold the same appeal. A third of Dutch households own speed skates, but a survey in 2017, a mild winter, found just 17% of those who owned them had used them in the previous year.

In cold winters icemasters play a crucial role, checking to ensure the ice is thick enough. When it is, volunteer ijsverenigingen (“ice associations”) spring into action, sweeping away snow and organising routes between towns. Canal-side hot-chocolate stands pop up, and the landscape acquires the cheery feel of an outdoor carnival. Skaters carry tickets, which can be stamped at way-stations on the ice; those who show fully stamped cards collect a medal. Some join gruelling marathons such as the Elfstedentocht, a 200km race between 11 northern towns that leaves skaters with frost-caked brows and bleeding ankles.

For the past four years the ice associations have been idle. The national weather service rates winters using the Hellmann index, the inverse of the sum of daily average temperatures below zero. Those above 100 are considered cold. From 1901-80 there were seven winters above 200. But the last time the index exceeded 100 was in 1997, which was also the last freeze thick enough for an Elfstedentocht. In 2014, for the first time since measurements began in 1901, it fell to zero: not a single day had an average temperature below freezing. This winter, as of February 15th, it stands at 4.8.

The Dutch have been skaters since medieval times, when peasants strapped gliders made of bone to their shoes. The world’s oldest metal-bladed skates, dating from the 13th century, have been found in Amsterdam and Dordrecht. The government is subsidising more artificial long-track rinks. But scenes like Pieter Bruegel’s paintings of village festivals on the ice are ever rarer. Some fear the Elfstedentocht may never be skated again.

https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21737056-land-champion-speed-skaters-frozen-canals-are-ever-rarer-what-climate-change-means?frsc=dg%7Ce