Dutch skater hails China’s efforts for organizing Olympics
‘Safest place in the world’
Published: Feb 18, 2022 12:55 AM
Thomas Krol of the Netherlands competes during men's 500 meters speed skating at Beijing 2022 on February 12, 2022. Photo: VCG

Thomas Krol of the Netherlands competes during men's 500 meters speed skating at Beijing 2022 on February 12, 2022. Photo: VCG

Dutch speed skating silver medalist Thomas Krol hailed China's COVID-19 prevention measures in the Beijing Olympic Village, saying that the closed loop creates a fairer environment for competition, and called the ice rink of the National Speed Skating Oval the most beautiful in the world.

"I had a really good race. This was definitely my best 1,500 meters of the year. I could not be faster, though I am a bit disappointed that it was not enough for a gold," said Krol.

As the inventor of speed skating, the Netherlands is one of the powerhouses on ice. He is one of the strongest medal contenders in upcoming 1,000 meters, where he will face challenges from home skater Ning Zhongyan, who also developed a friendship with Krol in past competitions.

"The skating oval in the Village is the most beautiful in the world, and I am not the only athlete who says that. Almost all the Dutch athletes said the same. It is the most modern rink I have ever seen," Krol said in a recent interview with the Global Times.

The Dutch skater was impressed by China's swift action in nucleic acid testing, saying that "everything is being organized really well and we are being safe there."

He said that everyone must take a test once every day but free to choose any time slot. 

"At first, we were just scared that we would be positive because it would be a nightmare for athletes coming here because we all want to race in the Olympics and not be in a quarantine hotel. And they are doing a really great job in creating a COVID-19 free bubble right now," Krol told the Global Times. 

Photo: Thomas Krol's dad and step brothers wave at medal plaza.

Photo: Thomas Krol's dad and step brothers wave at medal plaza. Photo: Courtesy of Krol

"It is the safest place in the world right now. I don't think it's too strict. I think they just did everything they could. Otherwise, we may have an unfair competition if half of the participants are positive. And that devalues your Olympic medal. Fortunately, not many people were actually out of the Olympics in skating. Everybody was there and that creates the fairest competition," Krol said.

Unlike his initial impression before arriving, Krol finally found there was "a lot of freedom for moving inside the close loop, and it feels really safe."

China has a gigantic population of 1.4 billion and it would make sense if you have countless number of COVID-19 positives. However, its positive numbers have been really low, and this is just incredible, according to Krol. "However, many people in other countries cannot celebrate the new year because everywhere was closed and people were in lockdown. But we saw pictures of people in Wuhan, where the COVID-19 first broke out, celebrating." 

"If there is one country which could organize this Winter Olympics, I think it should be China, because they know how to contain the epidemic. I think we all should be happy that it is being held here," Krol noted.

Krol also cited the continued improvement in services in the Olympic Village, citing the fact that there were nonvisible barriers between the seating areas initially for quarantine reasons, which "really made you feel like doing a test for school and unable to interact, waving or chatting to someone."

"But I think the organization noticed that, so after two to three days, they removed the invisible parts. They listened to the feedback. And it makes it more enjoyable for everybody."

Thomas Krol (left) holding the Bing Dwen Dwen with another two medalists.Photos: Courtesy of Krol

Thomas Krol (left) holding the Bing Dwen Dwen with another two medalists. Photos: Courtesy of Krol

Beijing 2022 is Krol's first Olympics, but this is not the first for his Beijing journey. 

"Six years ago, I went to Hong Kong but had a layover in Beijing for 24 hours. We visited the Olympic Park, and saw the signs already with 'Beijing 2022.' I thought it would be cool to walk into this giant bird stadium if I qualify in six years. It feels like an honor to walk into that giant stadium when I attended the opening ceremony of the Games," Krol said.

Before coming, Krol developed a good friendship with his Chinese rival Ning Zhongyan, who Krol exchanged suits with during the World Cup and said he is one of the favorites for the men's 1,500 meters.

"I am looking forward to competing with him because he is also a medal candidate," said Krol on Wednesday, while expressing his respect to another Chinese medalist Gao Tingyu, who handed China its first Olympic gold in the men's 500 meters speed skating.

"Ning and I exchange some messages sometimes on Instagram, and we wish best luck to each other. He asked me to exchange suits during the World Cup in Norway, and I got to say the Chinese suits are really beautiful because there are red, black and white which are nice colors. He also gave me some pins from the ­Chinese Winter Olympics as a ­present."