FINISH LINE: Dutch band Kleintje Pils has crowd rocking

  • Fri Feb 19th, 2010 12:14am
  • Sports

Rock this house

It is not only the ice resurfacing machines working overtime at the Olympic speedskating oval.

During lengthy delays caused while mechanics tinker with malfunctioning ice machines — and during any other pause between races — the Dutch brass band Kleintje Pils has been belting out Dutch and international tunes to keep the crowd happy.

“In Holland, they already call us the third ice machine,” band leader Huub Bakker said.

The mechanical glitches this week took a toll on the brass players, though. “You have to do it with your lungs and lips so it even started to hurt at the end,” Bakker said.

The 11-member band whose name means small beer in Dutch has become synonymous with Olympic speedskating since the Nagano Games, heard almost as often as the starter’s pistol.

“All you get is positive vibes,” said Bert van der Pol, a 40-year-old who flew from Amsterdam to Vancouver to watch Sven Kramer take the first Dutch gold of the Olympics on Saturday. He will stay around for another week hoping for more Dutch success, and take in every Kleintje Pils session.

Although the band from the northern province of Friesland is Dutch to the core, its appeal is global at the Olympic Oval.

The 7,000 fans at the Richmond oval all start dancing along, creating a happy, swaying patchwork of Dutch orange, Canadian red and — to a lesser extent — the colors of all the other competing nations’ flags.

Often playing at Dutch-dominated meets, songs like “Tulips from Amsterdam” dominate the repertoire.

But bandleader Bakker knew something else was called for in Vancouver.

“In a set, we mix the Dutch with the international,” he said. Before Wednesday’s 1,000 meters final, the set list included “California dreamin”’ of The Mamas &The Papas, which was immediately followed by “Hup, Holland, Hup” an oompa song heard whenever the Dutch play football.

To keep the locals happy, they also added “I am Canadian.”

Further adjustments also are made to suit particular fan groups.

“For the Japanese fans we up the up-tempo, because we know they like that kind of fast beat,” Bakker said.

The Japanese Olympic Committee invited the group for the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, and Kleintje Pils — a bit of the familiar for the skaters — has been back ever since.

Bakker remembered how Shani Davis came to join the band at the hotel during a competition one night: “He hung the sousaphone around his neck,” he said. “He was all laughs.”

It is not all fun though for the band members who also hold down regular jobs. Coming to Vancouver cuts deep into the vacations from their day jobs and there are no such luxuries as bringing the family over.

“We are not going to be here the last two days, because we have no holidays left,” Bakker said.

A Dutch sponsor flew them over, and the local organizing committee put them up in what the band members call “our alternative Holland House.”

But to be as neutral as possible, they are not dressed all in orange as many of the Dutch fans are, resplendent in blue-white-red striped shirts instead.

Before they leave, they still have one special request.

“What we want is a Canadian gold to get the crowd rocking,” Bakker said. “That would be great.”

PARTING SHOT

“With the putting, I don’t have anywhere to put my elbows now.”

— John Daly

The once very overweight PGA golfer telling the San Francisco Chronicle about the downside of shedding more than 100 pounds.