Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (3478)

Triathletes were ‘bullied and abused’ at training centre: report

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Triathletes taking part in an elite training programme were exposed to bullying and exclusion without proper support, an independent investigation has found.

The findings follow a report published last year, which was ordered after dozens of former athletes, some of them minors at the time, told newspaper Trouw about their ‘traumatic’ experiences at the national triathlon training centre (NTC) in Sittard in Zuid-Limburg.

The conclusions led to the resignation of the national coach and the entire board of the national triathlon federation NTB, which is responsible for the training programme.

The new report, based on interviews with athletes, parents, staff and former board members, a survey and email exchanges, is highly critical of the federation, broadcaster NOS reported.

It said very young athletes were encouraged to live and train at the centre, ‘unprepared because of their age and development’. The focus on training and lack of other activities led to feelings of ‘profound loneliness’ in some of the athletes, the report said.

The federation failed to support the athletes who, they claim, were even discouraged from studying in order to focus more on training. A number of athletes left the programme suffering from eating disorders, depression and physical problems through overtraining.

The report said staff at the centre lacked ‘social antennae’. It also suggested a closed culture in which ‘close family ties and friendships’ prevented staff from looking critically at their actions.

The report comes after a series of sports related abuse scandals in the Netherlands, the most recent of which concerned women’s gymnastics.



Rain brings relief and floods, measures to combat drought on the cards

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Wednesday’s thunderstorms caused flooding in the north and east of the country but with more warm weather on the way the rain will do little to mitigate the effects of the drought.

Heavy downpours in Hardenberg in Overijssel flooded streets and some homes, while in Beilen and Elim in Drenthe pedestrians also got their feet wet.

Lightning destroyed the chimney of a house in Elburg in Gelderland and some homes and businesses were flooded, local media reported.

Although more rain is expected on Friday, the meteorological office KNMI is forecasting dry and sunny weather for the rest of August.

The Netherlands is now in its third week of official water shortage and while the rain will raise water tables locally for a couple of days, more structural measures are being planned to combat the effects of the drought, broadcaster NOS reported on Thursday.

The government’s designated water shortage management team MTW is working on a number of measures to prevent salinisation, especially in coastal regions.

Among them is a so-called ‘bubble screen’, a pipe on the bottom of the Noordzeekanaal near the Zeeburg lock which produces a curtain of air bubbles to create a vertical current and stop salt seeping in.

Another measure will see the power station at Diemen used to carry freshwater from the Markermeer to the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal. River levels are still falling, with the Rhine at its lowest level ever, it emerged on Thursday.

A one-way system could be imposed on the IJssel from a depth of 1.45m, which will force some ships to take a different route. The effect of the drought is hitting nature, shipping, and agriculture hardest at the moment although industry may also start to feel the effects.

Drinking water provision is not under threat.



Unions call rail strikes from next Wednesday as pay talks fail

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch railway workers will start a five-day staggered strike next Wednesday, starting in the north of the country, unions have said.

Unions FNV, CNV and VVMC have called the strike because extensive wage negotiations have not led to better pay and conditions, the FNV said in a statement. The unions had been asking for €100 monthly raise, and a minimum wage of €14 an hour.

The NS is offering an 8% wage increase over 2.5 years. Given the current high inflation, the offer will dent workers’ spending power even more, the unions said. They had sent an ultimatum to the company, which is 100% state owned, which expired on Tuesday.

‘We don’t understand why the NS is letting things come to a head like this. We now have no to other choice but to call a strike,’ FNV negotiator Huub van Dongen told broadcaster NOS.

The unions have criticised the NS for being an ‘unattractive employer’ which is doing too little to solve a pressing lack of staff. Shortages led to services being scrapped on several routes this summer.

If the NS fails to come up with a better offer, national strikes will follow in the first week of September, the unions have said.



Rabbits dig up remains of at least three people in a garden

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Pet rabbits have dug up the remains of at least three people dating back to the 19th century in a garden in Amersfoort.

Police were called on Monday night when the children of the family thought they saw bones in a hole dug by their pet rabbits.

Police then spent all night uncovering more bones, including a skull, dating back to between 1880 and 1900. The find and subsequent police search caused much excitement in the neigbourhood, the AD said.

‘We soon heard they had found a skull with a jawbone attached. The teeth did not have fillings,’ a neighbour who claimed to have seen police photos told the paper.

The Dutch forensic institute NFI will now investigate how the remains of the three people ended up in the garden.



Woman who allegedly caused ex minister to crash to appear in court

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 42-year-old woman who allegedly caused former legal protection minister Sander Dekker to fall off his bike will be prosecuted for causing serious injury, the public prosecution office has decided.

Police initially also charged the woman with manslaughter but that was later dropped. Dekker, who suffered multiple broken bones in the fall, was cycling on a dune path in Monster near The Hague in June when the woman, who was on foot, motioned that he should moderate his speed.

While doing so she allegedly grabbed him, causing him to overturn three times, witnesses said at the time. Police are still investigating the precise circumstances of the case.

It is not clear when the woman will have to appear in court Dekker spent five weeks in hospital and is now recuperating at home. It was not the first time he was involved in a cycling accident.

In 2015, he broke his hip in Spain and in 2013 he fell after a runaway dog crossed the bike path.



Beachgoers don’t remove their butts: 90,000 found in cleanup

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Volunteers have collected almost 90,000 cigarette butts during a two-week clean-up of the Dutch beaches, in a total of 4,400 kilos of waste left by beachgoers.

‘That is 30,000 more than last year,’ said Marijke Boonstra, spokeswoman for environmental organisation Stichting Noordzee which organises the hunt. Over 33,000 discarded butts were found during the operation at Zandvoort while Scheveningen came second on the list with about 13,000.

Filters typically contain a form of plastic, cellulose acetate and do not biodegrade. ‘One cigarette butt can contaminate up to a 1,000 liter of water. It’s 95% plastic and toxic substances, and incredibly harmful the environment and the animals in it,’ Boonstra said.

Among the waste, volunteers found debris from containers washed overboard when container ship MSC Zoe got into trouble during a storm in 2019, and packaging dating back to 1983.

They also found a large number of dead birds. ‘It’s very sad to see dozens of dead birds every day. It shows how vulnerable North Sea fauna is and how important it is we protect it,’ Boonstra said.

It is the ninth time the organisation has organised the cleanup. ‘We need cigarette-free beaches. We are calling on all local councils to ban smoking in all but certain zones, as has happened in [the seaside resort of Renesse, ’ Boonstra said.



Bird flu found in the heart of the Dutch egg producing region

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Bird flu has been identified on a poultry farm in Lunteren in Gelderland, in the heart of the Dutch egg industry, the agriculture ministry has confirmed.

All 5,000 laying hens on the farm have been killed, as have an unspecified number at seven other locations less than one kilometre away from the affected farm. Some 235 other poultry farms are located within 10 kilometres from the Lunteren farm, and all are now subject to additional restrictions.

Farm minister Hans Staghouwer described the current situation as ‘extremely worrying’, given the new outbreak’s location, and said it will have ‘enormous impact’ on a lot of people.

The Lunteren case is the first since August 2. So far over 3.5 million birds have been culled since the outbreak began last October and the disease has been identified on 53 farms.

The Netherlands has some 1,700 poultry farms, half of which produce eggs – totalling some 10 billion eggs a year.



Environmental groups stand firm ahead of nitrogen talks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Environmental organisations are meeting mediator Johan Remkes to discuss the nitrogen pollution crisis on Monday and say they will not agree to watering down government targets.

‘The number of livestock has to go down drastically, a large number of farmers will have to stop and those who remain will have to switch to sustainable methods,’ Johan Vollenbroek, from Mobilisation for the Environment, told broadcaster NOS.

‘There is no alternative.’ Greenpeace, the WFF, Natuur en Milieu and natural heritage organisation Natuurmonumenten will also be at the talks, and all have said earlier they are not prepared to compromise.

Remkes has already held talks with farmers organisations and will meet industry, banks, and local government officials later in the month. He has been charged with trying to break the impasse following weeks of campaigning by radical farmers, who have dumped waste on motorways and blockaded supermarket distribution centres.

So far, the talks have been far from smooth and large Dutch agribusinesses, such as animal feed firms, have already said they will not take part unless the government makes concessions to the farmers.

The government has set a target of reducing nitrogen compound pollution by 70% by 2030, in order to meet EU guidelines on protecting sensitive natural environments. Estimates about how many farms will have to close or slim down their operations vary widely.



Heat takes sting out of mosquitos but wasps take over

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The dry conditions are having an effect on the mosquito population, but wasps are proliferating, experts have said. ‘We have noticed a marked decline in the number of mosquitos,’ entomologist Arjan Stroo of health and safety body NVWA, told the AD.

The lack of water, in which mosquitos breed, has caused the larvae to dry out, Stroo said. Last year, the wet spring combined with high temperatures caused a bumper year for mosquitos, peaking at the end of June.

There will be no increase in the number of mosquitos this year, Stroo said, unless the weather changes. The circumstances may not favour mosquitos but wasps, which like dry and hot conditions, have been thriving.

‘Many people panic when they see wasps. Their first thought is to kill them,’ biologist Arnold van Vliet said. That is not a good idea, he said, because wasps eat other insects we find bothersome, such as flies.

‘Wasps don’t set out to sting people,’ he told the paper.



Missed flights? Travellers will be compensated, airports say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Schiphol and Eindhoven airports have said they will compensate travellers who missed their flights because of the long queues to get through security this summer.

The deal will cover travellers who missed flights between April 23 and August 11 and who were at the airports in plenty of time to board, Schiphol group chief executive Dick Benschop said on Thursday evening.

Queues of several hours to get through passport control and security have led to hundreds of people missing planes, forcing airlines to cancel some services and move some flights to other airports this summer.

The airports will compensate travellers for costs which are not being met by their airline or their travel insurance – such as missed nights in a hotel which could not be cancelled.

So far, the airport has had 1,500 claims and expects many more before the September 30 deadline.


Meanwhile several people have been in touch with Dutch News to say that their suitcases are still missing, following problems with baggage handling earlier in the summer break.

Reader Maria Fernanda’s bags went missing on her way from Amsterdam to Oslo, on a connecting KLM flight from San Fransisco on August 1. ‘Unfortunately, I couldn’t travel light as we are moving overseas including a baby,’ she told Dutch News.

‘My check-in luggage contained my medicines and other irreplaceable essential items for work and personal items such as my wedding dress.’ Another reader said he was still waiting for news about his missing luggage, which vanished at the end of June.

‘I have contacted KLM on numerous occasions to ask if they still have a backlog but not been able to get any response,’ he said.


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