Riga launches its year as European Capital of Culture | News | DW | 21.01.2014
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Riga launches its year as European Capital of Culture

The Latvian capital, Riga, is kicking off its year as a European Capital of Culture with a number of events. Organizers hope that the title will bring hundreds of thousands more tourists to the Baltic city.

Riga kicked off its term as European Capital of Culture in 2014 on Friday with a performance of the opera "Rienzi" by Richard Wagner, who began writing the work in the Latvian capital.

Cultural events are to continue on Saturday among other things with a two-kilometer (one-mile) human chain that will transfer books hand-to-hand from the current national library to a new one (pictured above). Fifteen thousand people are expected to take part in the chain.

The first book to be handed along will be a Bible belonging to the German-Baltic aristocratic family von der Wenge Lambsdorff, library director Andris Vilks said on Friday. The Bible from the 19th century was donated for the opening of the library by Hagen Graf Lambsdorff, a former German ambassador in Riga.

The organizers of events surrounding Riga's status as Capital of Culture say they want to present culture as a "positive force," adopting the motto "Force Majeure" for 2014.

Choral climax

More than 200 events are scheduled to highlight cultural life in the city. The climax is expected to be the "World Choir Games" in July, an international choir gathering with more than 20,000 singers from around 80 countries taking part.

Riga's mayor, Nils Usakovs, said he hoped the title as Capital of Culture would give the city new cultural impetus and attract at least 2.1 million visitors in 2014 - 400,000 more than last year. Lativia has an estimated population of just over 2 million people, 700,000 of whom live in Riga.

The country has belonged to the European Union since 2004 and is a member of the eurozone.

Riga shares the title of 2014 European Capital of Culture with the city of Umea in Sweden.

More than 40 cities have so far been designated by the European Union since 1985 as cultural hubs for a one-year-period. The program initially used the name European City of Culture; this was changed to European Capital of Culture in 1999 under the German presidency of the EU.

tj/kms (dpa, KNA, AFP)

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