Dutch houseboat owners fear World Cup chaos

AMSTERDAM - The Dutch are hoping to welcome their World Cup team home with a victory canal parade although Amsterdam houseboat owners are becoming anxious about partygoers climbing onto their homes and sinking them.

Memories are still vivid of Netherlands' 1988 European Championship win over the Soviet Union when scores of euphoric flag-waving, beer-swilling fans draped in orange clambered onto lived-in houseboats which sank under their weight.

Amsterdam authorities have confirmed the national team will be honoured with a canal parade next week if they beat Spain in Sunday's final at Soccer City in Johannesburg and have chosen a route that passes as few houseboats as possible.

"We are a bit worried after seeing what happened in '88," said 43-year-old Danish housewife Rina Jensen, sunbathing on her family's black holiday houseboat on the Herengracht canal, fronted by white roses on the deck.

Having boat parades is a long tradition in Amsterdam, where the canals criss-crossing the historic city have led to it being dubbed "Venice of the North".

"But it's quite fun to watch," Jensen said, adding they planned to remain on the houseboat if the parade takes place and would be inviting a few friends over to get a front row view.

Each of the houseboats located on the planned route will be watched by guards and protected by fences. Houseboat residents and owners on the route had mixed reactions when they discovered the potential victory tour could pass right by.

Neighbourhood police officer Misha Nauman, who was visiting houseboats individually on Friday to discuss preparations with residents, said authorities were taking several measures to minimise damage if the parade goes ahead next Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the 1988 celebrations along Amsterdam's canals, when several houseboats capsized and filled with water.

"I'm just about the only person in Netherlands that always hopes the Oranje will lose," Irene Visser told the AD newspaper, recalling how she came back to Amsterdam after the 1988 parade to find her houseboat partially sunk in the Amstel river.

"It's not nice, you know, when your television, your couch and your kitchen are floating against the ceiling."

Follow FFT.com on Twitter Join FFT.com on Facebook