The Real Reason the Netherlands' Athletes Wear Orange at the Olympics Is Quite Interesting

If you aren't familiar with Dutch cultural norms, then you may have asked yourself: Why does the Netherlands wear orange at sporting events?

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Jul. 30 2021, Published 3:53 p.m. ET

Netherlands athletes
Source: Getty Images

There are certain traditions associated with different institutions and cultures that have been adhered to for so long that their origins fade into history. Some examples include putting coins on a headstone and seriously believing in the "flat earth" movement.

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While those "in the know" might be privy to the reasoning behind these specific phenomena, to uninitiated outsiders, certain practices might seem strange. For example, the Netherlands rocks orange in all of their sporting events despite the fact that the colors of the country's flag are red white and blue. So why do the Dutch wear that particular color?

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Why do the Netherlands wear orange?

According to Netherlands Insiders, the Dutch wear orange as a show of pride for their country. "The Dutch are not particularly nationalistic but make an exception for Kingsday and sporting events. All Dutch national sports teams wear orange," the outlet states.

The post goes on to say, "The Dutch wear orange as a symbol of their national unity and to signify national pride." The Dutch also wear orange on "Kingsday," a national holiday where "everybody is dressed in orange to symbolize our national unity."

Kingsday is the birthday of the country's current king, Willem-Alexander, which is April 27.

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There are usually large-scale flea markets along with plenty of festivals, concerts, and other events to mark the occasion. This sense of national pride has extended to sporting events whenever a national team heads out to represent the country in athletics. There have been plenty of documented occurrences of "orange fever" spectacles where Dutch fans rocking the color orange are all showing support for their team.

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Why the color orange? Well, that's because the Dutch flag used to be orange, white, and blue.

The OG Dutch flag designed was created by William III of England, aka William of Orange. Dutch soldiers during the 80 Years' War (aka the War of Independence) would rock orange uniforms as the Dutch fought against Spain to gain sovereignty, which is where the nation's fondness for the particular hue was believed to have formed.

So why was there a change to the flag? There are two prevailing beliefs, according to Dutch Review. The first reason: the Sun. Yes, that big ol' star that's responsible for our planet's existence and a big reason why deodorant was invented. It's believed that the Sun would naturally drown out the orange colors over time turning them red.

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The belief was that since the dyes used to make Dutch flags orange back then turned to red after a while anyway, the country just decided to change the color to red.

Another reason could be a politically charged one that had to do with members of the House of Orange not being allowed to become heads of state in the Netherlands.

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Per the outlet, "Other historians believe the change was a result of the 1654 English-Dutch defense treaty, which banned any member of the House of Orange from becoming head of the Dutch state."

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If you're headed to the Netherlands and want to get your orange on, there's really only one day that you shouldn't be rocking the color and that's on April 30: "Before the king’s succession in 2013, King’s Day was in fact Queen’s Day, in honor of Queen Beatrix. It was celebrated on April 30 but, of course, switched to April 27 when the king came to the throne. But since the change, many tourists have still arrived in the Netherlands fully dressed in orange on April 30 to celebrate the queen. These oblivious enthusiasts became known as vergistoeristen — mistake tourists."

So just keep that in mind the next time you're planning a trip to the Netherlands. Unless you're trying to let everyone know you're a "mistake tourist."

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