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Is the Party Over for the Love Parade?

DW staff (jam)April 14, 2004

The organizers of the Love Parade, the world's biggest techno music parade, say the event won't happen this year. The mass party, which at its peak had 1.5 million dancing through Berlin's streets, can't find financing.

The world's biggest rave might be history.Image: AP

It all began 15 years ago in 1989, when 150 techno fans danced down Berlin's Kurfürstendamm, propelled by the music's driving beat and, likely, illegal substances coursing through the veins of some. By 1999, the numbers had swollen to 1.5 million and the avenue between Berlin's Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate was turned into one large dance floor.

But in 2004, it looks like the party might be over and the DJ's going home. In a surprise announcement on Wednesday, the event's organizers said this year's parade, scheduled for July 10, has been cancelled.

"With much regret, we announce that this year there will definitely be no Love Parade," the organizers said, adding that a lack of a financing plan left them no option but to cancel the event.

Money troubles

The company behind the event, the Love Parade GmbH, had hoped to work in 2004 with Messe Berlin, a firm which organizes many of the trade fairs, exhibitions and conferences that take place in the capital. In 2003, Messe Berlin catered the party and in return agreed to take care of cleaning up afterwards. The deal, however, lost the company some €500,000 ($596,000) and it has said it is not interested in taking part in 2004.

According to the organizers, negotiations with the city government to find other partners to provide financing have failed. The government of Berlin has refused to make up for any deficits that the event comes away with.

Love Parade in Berlin Straße des 17. Juni
Ravers dance in front of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate during the annual Love Parade in Berlin, Saturday, July 12, 2003.Image: AP

The parade has also lost some of its luster since its heyday and visitors numbers have been declining. Last year around 500,000 people participated, only a third of the numbers from 1999. Sales of the CD from the event, an important funding source, have slumped while the search for sponsors has become increasingly difficult.

Parade costs have risen dramatically since 2001, when organizers first had to cover expenses associated with the event after it lost its status as a political demonstration that year. Organizers say costs rose from €300,000 in 2001 to €1.23 million in 2003. A large portion of that expense comes from costs incurred cleaning up along the parade route after partygoers leave.

Government surprised

Berlin's city government reacted with surprise at Wednesday's cancellation announcement. A spokeswoman for the city's economics minister, Harald Wolf, told reporters that a meeting planned for Friday with parade organizers to discuss financing issues was still on the schedule, saying it was still an open question whether the event could be saved.

"We've tried to do all we can from our side," she said. "But the event cannot be subsidized forever."

Opposition politicians called on the city to keep the party alive. Kai Wegner, economics spokesman of the conservative Christian democrats, said the Love Parade was one of "Berlin's top events" that attracts young people to the city. The liberal party called on Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit to make the Love Parade his top priority, saying it provides an important economic boost to the retail, restaurant and hospitality sectors.

The demise of the parade has been announced several times before, some point out, and it has still gone ahead . Over the last few years, last-minute financing deals have been hammered out.

Techno past its prime?

Dr. Motte
DJ Dr. Motte alias Matthias Roeingh.Image: AP

The Love Parade was founded by a techno DJ who goes by the name Dr. Motte (photo). In 1989, the 150 fans who gathered to dance and party did so under the motto "Peace, Joy and Pancakes." Ten years later the event broke all records with 1.5 million visitors and since 2000, Love Parades have taken place in Vienna, Tel Aviv and Mexico City.

The slow demise of the Love Parade coincides with the decline in popularity of techno music itself. Very popular in the 1990s, the music with its driving beats and repetitive rhythms began to lose steam as the new millennium broke.

"Young people have turned back to rock and pop," Ronald Hitzler, a sociologist at the University of Dortmund, told German press agency dpa. "Many are asking the question, 'when is the techno revival going to come?'"

For Berlin's Love Parade, the revival, if it does come, might come too late. According to Hitzler, that would be a "bad sign for the capital." He said rather than just a simple rave party, the parade is more like a summer carnival with a techno edge.

"It has a lot to do with a zest for life," he said.