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Oktoberfest tightens security after terror attacks

Kate Brady
April 28, 2016

Organizers of Germany's world-famous Oktoberfest plan to step up security at this year's festivities. Some 100 extra police officers and bag checks on arrival are among the extra measures.

Deutschland Oktoberfest in München
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Hörhager

German newspaper the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" ("SZ") reported on Thursday that a number of new security measures, costing almost one million euros ($1.13 million), will be implemented at this year's Oktoberfest.

The tightened security comes in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, as well as the mass sexual assaults outside Cologne train station on New Year's Eve.

Oktoberfest was previously targeted in a terrorist attack in 1980. Thirteen people were killed and around 200 others injured in what became known as the "Wiesn Attack." Among the dead was 21-year-old Gundolf Köhler who planted the bomb. The university student was a former member of a far-right group.

Bag checks and entry controls

Some 100 extra police have been tasked with overseeing the security at the 17-day event which kicks off on September 17. Deputy mayor Josef Schmid and advisor for the Department of Labor and Economic Affairs estimates that the extra officers alone could cost up to 900,000 euros.

Bag checks and entry controls will be introduced under the stricter measures, with large bags, backpacks and bulky items no longer permitted. In a bid to avoid clashes between deliveries and early morning entrance queues, this year will also see the beer tents opening an hour later than usual, at 10 a.m.

Overcrowding fears

Over the past 20 years, the popularity of Oktoberfest - which has been celebrated since 1810 - has rapidly increased. Last year saw some 5.9 million revellers worked their way through 7.3 million liters of beer over the course of the two-week festival.

In 1995, there was room for just under 95,000 people at any one time. This reached an all-time high last year, with 121,600 places available. From 2016, however, no additional spaces will be approved. Overcrowding of the site, coupled with fears of a terrorist attack, has increased safety concerns among the organizers.

Oktoberfest in Munich
5.9 million people visited Munich's world-renowned Oktoberfest in 2015Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Hörhager

Last year's Oktoberfest was so full that on the busiest days - especially on Saturdays and the Day of German Reunification on October 3 - there would have been no space to allow access to emergency services or to clear the tents, the "SZ" reported.

In the case of impending overcrowding, loudspeaker announcements will be broadcast in train stations and at the entrances to Oktoberfest and the Central Agricultural Festival. Organizers said, however, that if the site was already crowded, they would not hesitate in erecting two-meter-high mobile fences to temporarily shut off the festival.

The estimated total of around 950,000 euros in security costs will be financed by the profits from last year's Odin Oktoberfest, which offers more traditional attractions such as a swing carousel and fish, grilled on a stick. In the coming years, stall fees are expected to increase to cover the costs, which in turn is likely to have a knock-on effect on the price of beer.