• Stefanie and Mallory

Ice, more than just frozen water

Authors: Lyanne Spittje & Bastiaan Beth

Ice skating may not be the main form of transport in The Netherlands, in the contrary to what some American reporters might believe. Nevertheless, ice skating is strongly embedded in the Dutch culture. Already in the 17th century, famous painters like Rembrandt van Rijn have painted beautiful scenes in which you see people skate. Also, famous Dutch poets like Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft and Joost van den Vondel have written beautiful poems about ice skating early in the 17th century. It did not matter which class you were, in wintertime everybody skates (“Schaatsen: Een geschiedenis”, 2014).

Later on, ice skating became more regulated. In 1850 multiple ice associations established in The Netherlands and in 1882 the Royal Dutch Skating Federation was set up. After World War II, the Dutch became very successful in tournaments around the world like World Championships and The Olympics. This increased the popularity of skating amongst the Dutch (“De geschiedenis van het schaatsen”, n.d.).

To highlight the importance of skating to the Dutch, they recently included skating on natural ice in the Dutch National Inventory of Immaterial Cultural Heritage (“Schaatsen op natuurijs op de lijst van Immaterieel erfgoed”, 2016).

Due to global and ocean warming, possibilities to skate on natural ice became increasingly rare in The Netherlands. Last week (26-02-2018) real winter temperatures caused stagnant waters to freeze and provided skating fun for many. One of the problems that arose in the capital of The Netherlands, Amsterdam, were the many tour boats running through the historical canals, preventing the ice from getting thick enough to skate on. Luckily for fanatic ice skaters, the municipality of Amsterdam decided to prohibit boats from going through some of the canals in Amsterdam. Their objective to do so was to make it possible for the Dutch to skate on historical canals, like the Prinsengracht. This led to beautiful and nostalgic footage of Dutch people ice skating. The footage went across the world, providing good publicity for the capital of The Netherlands.

However, good publicity is not the main benefit coming from this temporary policy. Governments and municipalities have a special role as guarantor of public values like ice skating (Bryson, Crosby & Bloomberg, 2014). To provide these public values for a society, according to Bozeman (2002) there needs to be consensus on three points. The third point he names is on the principles on which governments and policies should be based. The municipality of Amsterdam based their policy of closing down some of the canals, on this very old value for the Dutch, being able to skate on natural ice. To the Dutch, ice is more than just frozen water. It is a public value made possible by the policy of the municipality of Amsterdam.



Bozeman, B. (2002). Public-Value Failure: When Efficient Markets May Not Do. Public Administration Review, 62(2), 61-145.

Bryson, J. M., Crosby, B. C., & Bloomberg, L. (2014). Public Value Governance: Moving Beyond Traditional Public Administration and the New Public Management. Public Administration Review, 74(4), 445-456.


De geschiedenis van het schaatsen. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2018, from

Schaatsen: Een geschiedenis. (2014). Retrieved March 7, 2018, from

Schaatsen op natuurijs op de lijst van Immaterieel Erfgoed. (2016). Retrieved March 7, 2018, from

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No694266)