• Katie Couric is coming under fire for saying ice skating is an “important mode of transportation” for people who live in Amsterdam.
  • She cited the frozen canals of Amsterdam as the explanation for why the Dutch are so good at speed skating.
  • The canals don’t actually freeze very often and when they do, the Dutch do have things like cars.

Katie Couric is coming under fire for comments she made during the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

As the Netherlands’ delegation entered the stadium during the parade of athletes, Couric attempted to explain why the nation dominates the sport of speed skating.

During the explanation, Couric cited the canals of Amsterdam, and called skating “an important mode of transportation” for when the canals freeze during the winter (you can see video of the comments here).

“It is probably not a news flash to tell you the Dutch are really, really good at speed skating. All but five of the 110 medals they’ve won have been on the speed skating oval. Now, ‘Why are they so good?’ you may be asking yourselves. Because skating is an important mode of transportation in a city like Amsterdam which sits at sea level. As you all know, it has lots of canals that can freeze in the winters. So, for as long as those canals have existed, the Dutch have skated on them to get from place to place, to race each other, and also to have fun.”

There is just one problem with this explanation: The Dutch actually have things like cars, and skating is not an important mode of transportation, even when the canals freeze, which by the way, is not that often.

After the comments hit the internet, the Dutch were quick to mock Couric:

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As for the real reason the Dutch are so good at speed skating, there is no single explanation.

Among the reasons that have been cited is the height of Dutch people - they are among the tallest in the world - as longer legs may give them an advantage. Also, the relatively flat terrain along with the many bodies of water likely has a factor in why skating is more popular than other winter sports, such as downhill skiing.

But the simplest explanation is probably just that the Dutch are really good at speed skating because the sport is extremely popular in the country and there is a positive feedback loop. Dutch children see Dutch athletes dominating at the Olympics and grow up wanting to be just like them.

As for Couric, she did get one part right: when the canals freeze they do look fun.

Frozen canal in Amsterdam

Foto: source Margriet Faber/AP