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Sport and film

For decades the summer months have been dominated by major sporting events. World championships football, swimming and athletics or the Olympics are held with a frequency of once every two or four years. However, the annual Tour de France and Wimbledon have a longer tradition: For more than a century, the summer has been heralded by cycling and tennis.

Still from Wielerwedstrijden (1921, director unknown).
Still from Wielerwedstrijden (1921, director unknown).

Tour de France

In the Netherlands, especially the Tour de France has always been popular. While Wimbledon only occasionally delivers a Dutch success, cycling has known Dutch winners on a regular basis, especially in the last decades of the last century. With Tour winners Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk and luminaries such as Jan Raas, Gerrie Knetemann, Henny Kuiper, Peter Winnen and Erik Breukink.

The cycling successes began in the fifties with cyclists like Wim van Est and Wout Wagtmans. They spectacularly won mountain stages and started a cycling craze in the Netherlands, which peaked in 1953: five stages were won by Dutch cyclists, Wagtmans finished fifth in the final placings and the team classification was won by the Dutch team.
Wiebe Mullens, son of film pioneer Willy Mullens, made about this historic tour a long sports reportage: Tour de France 1953. The film has been digitized by Eye and screened on television on the occasion of the start of the 2015 Tour de France in Utrecht.

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Tour de France 1953 (Wiebe Mullens, 1953).

the Hima tours of 1916 and 1917

In January 1916, the first multiple stage bicycle race through the Netherlands took place. Bicycle manufacturer M.A. Adler, owner of the Hima factory, organized the tour to promote his bicycles. Several well-known cyclists took part in the competition, including Klaas van Nek, Cor Blekemolen, and Piet Dickentman.

The caravan started in Amsterdam, and after six stages that had their finishes in Groningen, Enschede, Den Bosch, Vlissingen, and Rotterdam, it returned to Amsterdam for the final stage. Willy Mullens shot footage of this more than 1200-kilometre journey, but unfortunately that footage has since been lost.In January 1917, a second ‘Hima Rondrit’ tour took place, again with Amsterdam as the starting and finishing location, with stages in Deventer, Assen, Arnhem, Maastricht, and Breda. The participants again included Klaas van Nek and Cor Blekemolen, but this time cyclists such as John Stol and Frits Wiersma also took part. Footage of this tour, made by cameraman H.J.W. van Luijnen of the Kinematograaf Pathé Frères, has been preserved and shows what a cycling race looked like in those days.

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Hima rondrit 1917 (1917, director unknown).

The rise of sport in the Netherlands

During the second half of the nineteenth century, sport became an increasingly popular phenomenon in Dutch society. Up until then, the best-known example of sport in the Netherlands was the short-track skating races held in Friesland, whose winners would take home substantial sums of money. But by the final decades of the nineteenth century, sport was beginning to occupy an increasingly important place in society.

Walking and sporting on ice. Still from Holland in ijs - 1917 (1917, Willy Mullens).
Walking and sporting on ice. Still from Holland in ijs - 1917 (1917, Willy Mullens).

British versus German tradition

Two traditions played a role here, namely the British and the German. In the British tradition, with sports such as boxing, football, hockey, cricket, and athletics, the competitive element was paramount, and the goal was to be the best, the fastest, or the strongest competitor. Within the German tradition of physical education and gymnastics, which very much followed in the footsteps of ‘Turnvater’ Jahn, the most important values promoted were order and discipline. The British saw sport primarily as a means of developing personality and character, whereas for the Germans, the main goals were a sense of community and national consciousness.The Dutch gymnastics teachers were great advocates of the German style of gymnastics instruction and physical education, and they expressed their dismay at the British sports. In their eyes, these sports were not designed to improve the proper functioning of the body.

Yet their opposition was not enough to stop the increasing popularity of the new sports. An increasing number of boys from wealthy circles, many of whom had English boarding school backgrounds, grew interested in these new leisure activities, and soon the first football, cricket, and athletics clubs were established.

The first matches in the Netherlands

Things were developing quickly on the organizational level, under the inspiring leadership of people such as Pim Mulier, who at the age of 14 founded the Haarlem football club HFC. Athletic events were organized with increasing regularity, and in 1889 Amsterdam held the first world championship in speed-skating. This event also took place in Amsterdam for the following few years, and in 1893 the championship was won by the Netherlands’ first major sports hero: Jaap Eden.

Still from Universiteitsroeiwedstrijden (1902, director unknown).
Still from Universiteitsroeiwedstrijden (1902, director unknown).
Still from Voetbalwedstrijd te Dordrecht (1912, director unknown).
Still from Voetbalwedstrijd te Dordrecht (1912, director unknown).

Earliest Dutch sport footage

One of the other early sporting heroes from the Netherlands, the Limburg cyclist Mathieu Cordang, was the first Dutch athlete to appear in a film (which has since unfortunately been lost). On 30 July, 1899, the film Wielerwedstrijd tusschen Cordang en Fischer op het Sportterrein ’s-Hage was screened at Rotterdam’s specialty theatre Casino Variété. This film featured footage of the 100-kilometre velodrome cycling race between Cordang and the German Josef Fischer, which had taken place on 23 July in The Hague. Cordang won with a lead of almost four kilometres.

During the earliest years of film exhibiting in Netherlands, up until approximately 1905, Dutch cinema operators screened a number of sport reportages that they had produced themselves. These mainly featured footage of equestrian sports, gymnastics, and cycling; this footage was usually shot while travelling film exhibitors visited ‘festival weeks’ or other festivities. The oldest surviving Dutch sport footage dates from 1902, namely the film Universiteitsroeiwedstrijden.

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Universiteitsroeiwedstrijden (1905, director unknown).

More sports footage from our collection

Voetbalwedstrijd te Dordrecht

Footage from a football match in 1912.

Amsterdam-waterfeest en roeiwedstrijden

Footage of a water festival on Amsterdams’s Amstel River. Both recreational as well as competition rowers take part in the popular festival, which attracts thousands of visitors.

Hima rondrit 1917

Corporate film about the Hima bicycle tour of 1917. In eight days, cyclists rode 1200 twelve kilometres through the Netherlands.

Holland in ijs - 1917

Impression of the harsh winter of 1917 in the Netherlands, with some of the lowest average temperatures in history.

IJsfeest te Gouda

Reportage about an ice festival in Gouda, where races were held in in the presence of hundreds of spectators.

Legersport demonstratie

During the spectacular Army Day, soldiers in sportswear show their stuff in a stadium.

Militaire sportdemonstratie op Houtrust

Soldiers give a sport demonstration in The Hague’s Houtrust Stadium.

Kijkjes tijdens de groote kaatspartij te Franeker

Reportage about a pelota match held on August 4, 1920, in Franeker.

De voetbalwedstrijd Holland - Denemarken

Report about the Netherlands - Denmark football match on April 6, 1920 in Amsterdam. For the first time in football history, the Netherlands beats Denmark.

Amsterdam roeikampioenschappen 1921

In 1921, the European Rowing Championships were held on Amsterdam’s Amstel River.

Gymnastiekfeest ter gelegenheid van het 7e lustrum der Hilversumsche gymnastiekvereeniging

Reportage about the gymnastics festival organized by the Hilversum Gymnastics Association (HGV).

Serie-wedstrijden om den ESC beker te Edam

Reportage about the matches in the challenge cup held by Edam’s Sport Comité.


Report about a bike race around Helmond in 1921.

De motor- en voetbalwedstrijden te Steenwijk

Reportage about the motorcycle race and footbal matches in 1922.

Wielerbaan SVME

Reportage about the cycling races in Mariadorp.

Voetbalwedstrijd om het kampioenschap van Nederland op zondag 25 maart 1923 te Deventer

Reportage about a football match Reportage about a football match in the stadium in Deventer.

Voetbalwedstrijd om het kampioenschap van Nederland te Groningen

In April of 1923, the Groningen club Be Quick and the Deventer club Go Ahead played their second league game of the season, this time in Groningen’s Essenberg stadium.