Munich ‘to spend extra €2.2m’ on Oktoberfest security

Munich 'to spend extra €2.2m' on Oktoberfest security
Oktoberfest in Munich, 2014. Photo: DPA.
After terror attacks in Paris, Brussels and most recently Istanbul, Munich could spend nearly €3 million more on security and other measures - but terrorism isn't the only concern: the biggest fear is overcrowding.

Three months before the start of the world’s most famous celebration of beer, Munich is finalizing plans on how to make sure revellers stay safe this year.

Around 100 more security personnel will be employed, a loudspeaker system in multiple languages will be used for emergencies, random bag checks will be performed at each entrance and officials are also mulling the use of movable fences to block off certain areas when need be.

Organizers said earlier this year that security checks at the entrances would be implemented for the first time.

Hiring more security guards alone will cost €2.2 million more than last year, bringing total extra costs to €2.8 million.

Each year the two-week long beer festival attracts more than six million visitors, and the prospect of a terror attack is not a new one this year, especially given that the beloved folk fest was already the site of an attack in 1980.

That year, a right-wing extremist planted a bomb that killed 12 people and himself as well as injuring more than 200.

“Terror is something that is always on the radar for us,” said police spokesman Marcus da Gloria Martins, explaining how the some 500 officers deployed for Wiesn (Oktoberfest) will be trained to respond to threats “in real-time”.

“The possible scenarios are so complex that it’s not so easy to say whether it’ll be X or Y,” he added.

But another major concern is that of overcrowding.

“For me the general problem of crowding at Wiesn is more worrisome that a terrorist attack,” the police spokesman said.
This year officials expect the numbers of people in attendance to be high, even given recent terror attacks, especially since the number of Germans attending on the weekends has grown in particular in recent years.

Each day sees roughly half a million people on the 30 hectares of land, and often the limited space is so tight that it can be hard for emergency services to reach people quickly through the crowds.

Last year on October 3rd, things got so chaotic that officials tried closing off some entrances, but struggled to control the crowds.

One proposal this year is to have loudspeakers with announcements in multiple languages to warn people about overcrowding. Organizers also want to use moveable barriers as a last resort.

But this idea raises its own concerns: Many still reflect on the tragedy of the 2010 Love Parade disaster in Duisburg, western Germany, when a lack of sufficient entrances and exits ultimately led to the crushing deaths of 21 people.

Others say that with temporary barricades they could block entrances to areas and would have helpers nearby to open the gates in an emergency.

Munich also launched an online Wiesn-Barometer so that visitors can check which times are the most crowded and plan to go when the fest is less busy.

The city will on Tuesday finalize security plans for Oktoberfest, which is set to run from September 17th to October 3rd.