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World's beer fans meet for Oktoberfest

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  • World's beer fans meet for Oktoberfest

    MUNICH: International squads of beer drinkers, leather-clad Bavarians and devotees of excess young and old have converged in Munich for the start of the planet's biggest beer festival, the Oktoberfest.

    Over the next two weeks, beer drinkers are expected to guzzle more than six million litres of beer – enough to fill around six Olympic size swimming pools – and chomp through vast quantities of food during the world-famous orgy of consumption.

    Dressed in leather shorts, or lederhosen, Munich mayor Christian Ude got the festival under way at noon to the cheers of an impatient crowd by cracking open the first 200 litre keg with the traditional shout "O'zapft is!" - the keg is tapped.

    With Germans dismayed by years of weak economic growth, high unemployment and the onset of painful reforms, Ude told Munich's Abendzeitung newspaper the yell captured the essence of the festival's importance.

    "One shout and all of us – otherwise such dependable moaners and worriers in the vale of tears that is Germany – turn into rustic good-natured sorts whom we wouldn't even want to meet in the street during the rest of the year," he said.

    By the time the 171st festival ends on October 3, organisers are hoping more than six million people will have made the pilgrimage to its 14 massive beer tents that seat up to 10,000.

    Inside the vast Schottenhamel pavilion where the beer frenzy kicked off, Norbert Eckert, a ruddy-cheeked, moustachioed veteran of 15 previous Oktoberfests was stunned by the turnout.

    "I've never seen so many people here for the start as this year," said Eckert, a 54-year-old mechanic from Dormagen in western Germany.

    The origins of the Oktoberfest date back to 1810 when a lavish five-day celebration was held all over Munich to mark the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.

    With its huge influx of tourists, the festival creates work for some 12,000 people and generates close to a billion euros (558 milion pounds) in revenues for the city.
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