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Sport in the Netherlands

Like in most countries, sport is being practised by many inhabitants of the Netherlands, mostly at recreational level. About 4.5 million of the 16 million people are registered to one of the 35,000 sports clubs in the country. About two thirds of the population older than 15 years participates in sport weekly. Additionally, many Dutch enjoy watching sports events on the stands or on television.

The most popular sports, both for active participation and audience are football, cycling, speed skating and tennis.

Like in most European countries, organisation of sports began at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Federations for sports were established (such as the speed skating federation in 1882), rules were unified and clubs for sports came into existence. A Dutch National Olympic Committee was established in 1912.

In the four most popular sports, international successes vary. In football, the Dutch won three Olympic bronze medals in 1908, 1912 and 1920, but new successes only came in the 1970s, when the national team played in the 1974 and 1978 Football World Cup finals, losing to the tournament's host on both occasions. In the same period, Dutch league sides Ajax Amsterdam and Feyenoord Rottedam[?] won European Cups from 1970 to 1973. In 1988, the national team won the only international title so far at the European Championships. PSV Eindhoven won the European Cup that year too. Ajax Amsterdam again won the European Cup in 1995. Many Dutch football players have gained international fame, such as Johan Cruijff, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Dennis Bergkamp and current Manchester United star Ruud van Nistelrooy[?].

Cycling is a major form of transportation in the Netherlands, and Dutch cyclists have had some international successes. Two Dutchmen have won the Tour de France, and seven have been World Champion on the road. On the track, several Olympic titles have been won, although most not in recent years. Leontien van Moorsel[?] won three Olympic gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Games, while Erik Dekker[?] won the 2001 Cycling World Cup.

After a successful period around 1900, with Jaap Eden[?] and Coen de Koning as World Champions, Dutch speed skating successes became numerous in the 1960s. Champions Kees Verkerk[?] and Ard Schenk[?] were immensely popular, causing a real speed skating hype in the country. Successes continue up to today, with the likes of Yvonne van Gennip[?] (3 Olympic golds in 1988), Rintje Ritsma[?] (4-time World Champion) and Jochem Uytdehaage (2 Olympic golds in 2002).

Tennis, while popular, has never produced many champions. Most successful were Richard Krajicek, who won Wimbledon in 1996, and the Paul Haarhuis[?]/Jacco Eltingh[?] double team, which won many Grand Slam titles.

A number of native Dutch sports is also practised, such as beugelen[?], kaatsen[?], klootschieten[?], kolven[?] and korfball.

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