Dutch Language Blog

“Een nieuw jasje” for speed skating! Posted by on Nov 16, 2015 in Culture, News

Thialf blijft Thialf. Voor de rest wordt alles nieuw. With this slogan, the re-make of the most famous schaatsbaan (speed skating rink) of the Netherlands has begun. Before we go more into this slogan more deeply, you probably want to know what Thialf is!

The old Thialf

Thialf is an speed skating rink in Heerenveen in Friesland. It was opened by princess Christina (the youngest daughter of prins Bernhard and Queen Juliana) on October 14, 1967. Around 10,000 spectators can find place around the ice rink. There are a 400m and a 333m ice rinks, and three smaller ones for ice field sports, like ice hockey and curling.

Essent World Championship at Thialf (Image by Paul Perreijn at Flickr.com under license CC BY 2.0)

Is it fast?

You bet! It was long considered the fastest rink in the world. However, as technology advanced, and the sport became more sophisticated, air resistance got a role. Thus today, it is the third fastest rink in the world, after the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, USA and number 1, the Olympic Oval in Calgary, Canada. The latter two are built at a higher altitude, which is an advantage in speed skating since air resistance is lower. However, since Thialf is built at only 0.4 m (1.5 ft) above sea level,Experts keep up a list also for speed skating records set at or around sea level altitudes. In that list, Thialf (denoted as Heerenveen) is doing very good, with our own Michel Mulder and Sven Kramer holding records on 500m and 5000m. Goed gedaan, jongens!

We are also a language blog – is “Thialf” a Dutch word?

The simple answer is no. Thialf is derived from the name of the speedy helper of the Germanic God of Thunder, Thor. So, the origin is in Nordic mythology. Actually, already in 1892 there was an ice rink in Heerenveen, though without a roof, that was called Thialf!


New Thialf – Thialf blijft Thialf. Voor de rest wordt alles nieuw.

First, there were thoughts to build an entirely new Thialf. This has, however, been changed into a vernieuwbouw (“renovuilding” – I made that neologism myself from “renovation” and “building”, as that is essentially what vernieuwbouw means [from vernieuwen and bouwen]).

A new “ice skating Mekka” of the Netherlands (Image by Sk@te at commons.wikipedia.org under license CC BY 3.0)

What will change?

The ice rink will be completely renewed, and is promised to be better than it ever was. So maybe it will become #1 in the world again? Who knows?

Furthermore, there will be new facilities for food and fitness and even a laboratory. All these spaces will be smartly cooled and heated, for optimal energy use.

The paneling of the building has already been completely renewed.

Phase 1 is ready now – you can see the result here. Quite beautiful, isn’t it? The work will be interrupted now, so in the winter skating season Thialf can be open. Because Friesland cannot go without skating! And the first skaters could already test the ice! In March 2016, the workers will return!

I cannot wait to see it myself!

Have you ever been to Thialf?

Do you like ice skating yourself?

Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.