Amsterdam: The streets of Amsterdam began to turn orange today in honor of the Netherlands` ruling House of Oranje-Nassau, as officials prepare for a once-in-a-generation rotation of royal titles and the rest of the country gets ready to party.
National broadcaster NOS reported that Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his family were in the Royal Palace on the city`s central Dam square today morning, rehearsing protocols for the ceremonies tomorrow in which Queen Beatrix will abdicate, Willem-Alexander becomes king and his 9-year-old daughter Princess Catharina-Amalia becomes crown princess.
Queen Beatrix will address the nation for the last time as head of state today evening, and she is hosting a reception at the newly renovated national museum, the Rijksmuseum.
Many Dutch aren`t working today, as partying for the Queen`s Day holiday tomorrow traditionally starts the night before.
In the historic city center, vendors are busy hawking orange t-shirts, hats and feather boas. Trams are flying orange flags, and Dutch flags, as are many of the boats motoring through the city`s ancient canals.
Shopkeepers are hanging up orange streamers, setting out orange flower displays and rolling in countless kegs of beer.
Meanwhile, city workers are busy cleaning the streets, removing unwanted bicycles and setting up temporary urinals, many of them made of bright orange plastic.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told foreign journalists from more than 60 countries yesterday evening that the week`s events involve an "unprecendented logistical and security operation" that was organised in just three months. Beatrix announced her intention to abdicate in January.
More than a million people are expected in Amsterdam tomorrow, with 10,000 uniformed police, 3,000 plainclothes officers and an untold number of civil servants assisting in the logistics.
The airspace above Amsterdam was closed today for three days. Dutch police could be seen sweeping Dam square for bombs, with assistance from German agents with sniffer dogs.
Royal guests from 18 countries have begun to arrive, and city traffic was frequently interrupted today by limousines with tinted windows and police escorts.
Among the many notables on hand are Britain`s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, and the Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako.
Charles was also in attendance when Beatrix was crowned in 1980. Masako`s father is a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It is her first official overseas trip since the couple`s 2002 visit to New Zealand and Australia.
Masako developed a stress-induced illness soon after giving birth to the couple`s daughter, Aiko, who is now 11.