Posted: Friday February 24, 2006 9:04PM; Updated: Saturday February 25, 2006 9:38AM
The Dutch set up the house (which opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 2 in the morning) about two miles south of the Oval Lingotto, the home of speedskating and a venue that has become a satellite nation for Holland. After a day at the ice, the Dutch head to the Holland House for some fire. The country produces killer DJs at the same rate it produces Olympic-caliber speedskaters, and the heavy spinners who have rocked Holland House include DJ Jean, DJ Marco V and DJ Ferry Corsten (no, I'm not cool enough to actually have heard of these dudes).
Sure, the Russia House has U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir as a frequent guest and Russian actresses straight from Bond Girl central casting. But what I like about the Holland House is its common touch. There's a daily newsletter that offers factoids about Holland -- did you know the Dutch are the tallest people in Europe? -- and helps you bone up on the language (for instance, Kroegentocht means pub crawl in Dutch). Holland House also has its own skating rink -- an indoor one -- and the rink today was filled with Italian kids (perhaps I saw the next Enrico Fabris). Just as cool: The skates were orange, and it was gratis to rent them. And while the Dutch may not rival the French for food, there's always plenty of patatte fritte (a bargain at 2.50), erwtensoep (thick pea soup) and bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs).
The 10,000 was thrilling because of the crowd. The Holland House has televisions everywhere, including three wall-sized ones on the sound stage where the DJs play at night. In an effort to pump up homeboy Chad Hedrick -- and to practice my trash-talking to the nation of the Netherlands -- I asked Claire if the party would still be on after Hedrick won the 10,000. "Even if it's silver or bronze for the Dutch, it's a gold medal experience here," she said. (Public relations has no international borders.) Claire said her Heineken office in Holland is attached to a brewery, where if the wind is blowing northeast you can smell the yeast from the beer. (For the record, she said it's a pleasing smell.)
As for the race, Dutch skater Bob de Jong posted a time of 13:01.57, but the question was whether it would hold up against Hedrick, the world record holder who was in the last pair along with Carl Verheijen of the Netherlands. The crowd at the Holland House roared with 13 laps left. And 12. And every lap after that. They roared at split times and whenever Dutch Olympic skating coach Gerard Kemkers appeared on screen. As Verheijen stalked Hedrick and continued to make up distance, the noise grew louder. The only word I could make out from the Dutch announcers was "Hedrick," but even I could make out the larger meaning: Watch out for the Big Orange Man. At the 8,400-meter mark, the skaters were separated by just over a second, but Hedrick responded and put away Verheijen. But there was still De Jong to catch, and the Texan finally ran out of gas. He finished 3.83 seconds behind the gold medalist. Verheijen won the bronze medal in 13:08.80.
Gold and bronze for the Dutch. Silver for the Stars and Stripes. The party was on at Holland House.