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Skating the Canals - Almost Elfstedentoct in 2012!

​After temperatures dropped into the mid-teens across most of the Netherlands this February, Amsterdam's famous canal system froze solid. The frozen waterways have allowed thousands of Dutch to hit the canals on ice skates for the first time since the canals froze back in 2010, which was also the first time they had frozen in over a decade.
Amsterdam's canals are the latest in a string of frozen European waterways this winter. Earlier in February, Venice's famous canals froze over, and Europe's second-longest river, the Danube, froze solid enough to suspend shipping.

When it became apparent that Amsterdam's canals might freeze over, the Dutch authorities closed them to motorized traffic in order to help quicken the freeze. The sight of skaters enjoying gliding across the frozen canals on a sunny Amsterdam day has been a rare respite from what has otherwise been a brutal European winter where hundreds of people have died from exposure to the cold across the continent this season. Some meteorologists are saying this year's cold streak is the worst Europe has seen in more than 20 years,

However cold it has been, it has not satisfied those Netherlanders who have been hoping the deep freeze would be deep enough to hold their beloved “Elfstedentocht" canal skating marathon race for the first time in 15 years. The last time the 125-mile race was held on the network of canals connecting 11 Dutch towns and cities in 1997, it became a national event drawing thousands of participants and more than a million spectators.

The Elfstedentocht, also known as the "Eleven Cities" speed skating race, is a Dutch wintertime favorite and reflects the centuries-old tradition of skating along frozen canals. The race was first officially organized way back in 1909, but weather conditions have been so warm over the last 100 years that the event has only been held
15 times since its inception. The Eleven Cities race is an invitation-only event managed by the Frisian Eleven Cities Association and class winners in the past have become overnight celebrities in the small country where speed skating is one of the most popular sports.
The race is held on 22 separate stretches of canals, rivers and lakes, but after regional association managers recently met to take a look at the route, the officials said the whole course had not yet frozen to the required depth of 6 inches of ice. Undeterred, some Dutch skaters have begun sharpening their skates and training in case the event gets the go-ahead this year, and the chairman of the Eleven Cities Association told a national television audience that "The weather will determine what happens next."

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