(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
GANGNEUNG, South Korea _ Next stop is Tokyo 2020 for the oompah band Kleintje Pils, aka “the Dutch giants on clogs” at the Pyeongchang Games.
It will be full circle if they make it to the Summer Games in two years’ time. The brass band, known for their stirring renditions of classics like Neil Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline," started out at the 1998 Nagano Games in Japan.
The Dutch already reign supreme on the ice at the speedskating oval and on Wednesday, Kleintje Pils, which translates to “Small Beer,” took the infield again.
“Just before leaving for Korea, we studied the song "Gangnam Style" and it has become our biggest hit here,” said Ruud Bakker, who wields a bass drum. “Koreans may be subdued, but this gets them going.”
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Decked out in their orange-striped shirts, casual pants and wooden shoes, Kleintje Pils had its first performance at a hockey match. “The fans are different. They raised the roof,” said Bakker.
For a band that has even played at Saint Peter’s in Rome with the pope, they can deal with a challenge.
At the 2006 Turin Games, it was the passion of the Italian fans that struck a chord. In Salt Lake City in 2002, it was discovering U.S. fans still dealing with the 9/11 attacks from a year earlier. “Americans let us know they could be joyful again,” Bakker said.
Perhaps their toughest stage was Sochi four years ago, where they insisted on playing “YMCA,” which is a gay anthem to some, despite a law banning so-called gay propaganda.
“We didn’t allow ourselves to get sucked up in that political circus,” Bakker said.