Amsterdam mayor more emotional about city than cancer in first interview since diagnosis

Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan was a guest on Zomergasten on Sunday night, the first extensive interview he gave since he announced that he was diagnosed with metastasized lung cancer early this year. Van der Laan spoke to presenter Janine Abbring about his work, his illness and his city, remarkably getting more emotional when speaking about the city than speaking about his cancer.

"At the moment, I'm feeling well", the 62-year-old mayor said, according to NOS. "I've been in pain for some time. But that's how it goes, the cancer comes from all sides. But I'm not feeling so tired right now." While Zomergasten is usually broadcast live, the interview with the mayor was filmed in advance so that it could be paused if necessary. "Sometimes I'm overcome by fatigue. That means that I have a safety net and can get it out if needed."

Abbring asked the mayor if he would not rather do something other than work now that he is so sick. "No. Responsibility is my nickname. Maybe I have an excess of sense of responsibility", Van der Laan said. He'll be Amsterdam's mayor for a while longer, though how long he can not say. "The King's Commissioner says: you decide that, and my aldermen help me well. It's up to me to make sure nobody regrets it. And for the moment, I'm mayor."

Van der Laan is overwhelmed by responses and support from Amsterdam residents. "They say: stay for a while, but also pay attention to your family. I feel very supported."

While Van der Laan could calmly discuss his illness, he became visibly emotional when talking about Abdelhak Nouri - the Ajax footballer who sustained severe brain damage after collapsing during a practice match a few weeks ago. "It is an unlikely sadness that someone with such beautiful perspective has such bad luck", he said.

But he added that this horrible situation also had an up side in the way it brought different people together - Ajax fans and Feyenoord and PSV fans, as well as the hard core Ajax fans the F-siders and Moroccans in the city. He spoke about a gathering in front of Nouri's home. "It was a sort of mourning service: the F-siders included Moroccans in their firework use and the Moroccans included the F-siders in their prayer... and so it was the perfect service."

When asked what he hopes his heritage for Amsterdam will be, Van der Laan said: "That it will remain the lovely city it is." You made it better, Abbring said. "I hope so", the mayor replied. 

Van der Laan's interview was broadcast in various public places across the city, and thousands of Amsterdammers gathered to watch it together, NOS reports.