Dutch take to the ice in hundreds
As much of Europe sought refuge from the cold, hundreds of Dutch embraced the chill yesterday for the year's first skating event on natural ice, held on the frozen Henschoter Lake in Utrecht.
"It has been very busy, I expect that up to 1,500 people will have taken part by the end of the day," Ramon Kuipers, project co-ordinator for skating federation KNSB, said by telephone from the central Dutch city.
"For us, it is important that as many people as possible are introduced to ice skating, and these events on natural ice help to make the sport accessible. Skating is part of the Dutch cultural heritage."
The federation announced yesterday that the shallow Henschoter Lake had frozen sufficiently, to a depth of 12 cm, to be safe for skaters.
The two-kilometre circuit course opened at 10 am local time yesterday, for participants to skate up to a maximum of 40 km.
"So far we've had mainly adults, the children will come after school," Kuipers said by lunchtime.
"There were a few novices today, but most people seemed to know what they were doing."
Some of the younger children were learning to find their feet with the help of kitchen stools pushed ahead of them, he explained.
As the KNSB warned that natural ice in most parts of the country remained unsafe, emergency services launched a large-scale for two skaters who had gone missing near the northern town of Marken yesterday.
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