Northern Europe's largest summer festival has officially begun in the German city of Kiel. More than 3 million people are expected to descend on the Baltic Sea port for the Kieler Woche, a week-long sailing extravaganza.
Kiel Week (Kieler Woche), dubbed the largest sailing event in the world, has kicked off in the northern German city of Kiel.
The 125-year-old festival is expected to draw some 4,000 participants from 60 countries, as well as 3 million spectators.
The June tradition is best known for its diverse ship races. But revelers can also expect concerts, carnival rides, fireworks shows and an array of other sporting activities.
The event typically begins with the ringing of a ship's bell, and a "cast off!" whistle signal. This year's honors were performed by German Family Minister Franziska Giffey and Schleswig Holstein State Premier Daniel Günther in front of Kiel's town hall.
Giffey told the 10,000 people in attendance that the event was "a fantastic festival that creates community."
The massive boating convention draws thousands of vessels, from naval destroyers to historic sailing ships
More than 2,000 ships are taking part in this year's racing events from June 22 to 30. An annual highlight is the parade of more than 100 century-old tall ships in the Kiel Fjord.
Races for sailors hoping to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Japan get underway on Wednesday.
nm/jm (SID, dpa)