Following meetings with groups like the Safety Region Fryslân and the Province of Friesland, the committee has decided that an Elfstedentocht is off the table this year
Translated by Thomas Ansell
As reported by the Omrop Fryslân, the Koninklijke Vereniging De Friesche Elf Steden have decided there will definitively not be a race in 2021 despite ongoing freezing weather in Friesland. Perhaps unsurprisingly it has been decided that bringing together thousands of fans, skaters, and organisers in the current pandemic would be an untenable risk to public health.
The Elfstedentocht is an ice-skating race that takes place through the 11 traditional ‘cities’ of Friesland, and is held on a route across frozen canals and waterways. The race begins and ends in Leeuwarden, and is about 200km long. Though it was held informally for centuries, the first official race was in 1909, and occurred regularly until the 1960’s, when the warming climate lessened chances of a thick layer of natural ice in the Province. It was last held in 1997.
This final decision backs up a previously held position by the committee, which in November announced that a combination of factors (risk, social distancing measures, etc) made holding the race in 2021 extremely unlikely. It seems that consultations with the Safety Region (Veiligheidsregio) and Province have cemented the decision.
The committee did try to find various scenarios in which a race could be held whilst maintaining social distance, but every option had a serious drawback. The Elfstedentocht could draw a crowd of over 100,000 people, and the committee says that bringing that many people together would be wholly irresponsible. Added to that, hospitals across the Province of Friesland are under huge pressure due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“There were various modifications considered (only competition skaters, no public, fewer participants and so on), but for us there is no alternative option”, says the organising body, “an Elfstedentocht without the public, or with fewer participants is no true Elfstedentocht.”