Festival Promoters Angry Over Love Parade

The conditions that led to 20 deaths and more than 500 injuries in Duisburg, Germany, July 24 has angered at least two of the country’s major festival promoters.

Marek Lieberberg has already called for the resignation of Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland, saying that it was “criminal” to allow the techno street festival Love Parade to go ahead on the city’s former railway freight depot.

“This is not a tragic disaster, this is a crime,” he said, claiming Duisburg’s “megalomania” led to the huge violation of safety rules that turned a tunnel into a “deadly trap.” Lieberberg runs the huge twinned Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals.

He said the event should have been stopped immediately because if fear spread among the crowd already on the packed field, the outcome could have been much worse.

“Somebody has signed off on this and that’s the part that I can’t understand,” FKP Scorpio chief Folkert Koopmans told Pollstar, saying he spent most of July 26 responding to media questions about safety and security measures at his company’s half-dozen German outdoors.

“They keep asking me what I will be changing at Highfield,” he said. Highfield is Scorpio’s next festival, Aug. 20-22 on the 25,000-capacity Hohenfelden Reservoir site near Erfurt, about a four-hour drive from Duisburg.

“I don’t know what changes I can make. I’m not trying to drive 1.6 million people through a tunnel that’s 100 metres long and only 16 metres wide.”

He said Duisburg shouldn’t have been surprised that more than 1 million people turned out, as the last two Love Parades both brought in about 1.2 million. Last year the nearby city of Bochum pulled out of staging Love Parade because of crowd safety concerns.

Koopmans’ fears that the disaster will have repercussions for the German festival business were likely reinforced when the Interior Ministry – which oversees police and security – said the Duisburg tragedy must force a re-examination of security at large events.

“It’s inconceivable that organisers would make hundreds of thousands of people channel into a tunnel that can’t be easily evacuated and that doesn’t allow rescue teams to get through easily,” said Carsten Simon, managing director of event security company S.A.F.E.

“The most basic thing for such big events really is that you can never have a common entry and exit. You can’t allow the crowds to run into each other.

“I cannot understand how the authorities could possibly approve that,” he said.

Andre Aahrle, head of Special Security Service, believes the country’s current requirements are “absolutely” enough, “but only if they are respected.”

German prosecutors have launched an inquiry into the incident but haven’t specified who is being investigated in what might turn out to be a negligent manslaughter probe.

The organisers, who’ve already said there will never be another Love Parade, and the local Duisburg authority have both come under fire for allegedly trying to squeeze so many people into such a small space.

German newspaper Der Spiegel revealed the local police and fire brigade in Duisburg recruited security experts to monitor the run-up to the festival, and had warned it was vital to avoid the kind of “eye of the needle” situation that is believed to have caused the tragedy.

The German weekly also claims the experts advised it would be better to allow the crowd several access routes, although the organisers allegedly rejected their views because it would have meant increased police costs.

The safety experts also reportedly warned that the 23-hectare site was large enough for half a million visitors, about one-third of the turnout.

Despite misgivings and a campaign by local residents to ban the event, Mayor Sauerland said the security concept had been sound.

He said he’s unable to make further comment due to the police investigation, beyond expressing his sympathy for the victims and their relatives.

City officials held a press conference July 25 to announce that 16 of the 20 killed, all aged between 20 and 40, have been identified. Police confirmed that seven foreigners are known to be among the victims. They include an Australian woman, an Italian woman, a Dutch man and a Chinese woman, a Bosnian and two from Spain.

Police also said that most of victims died immediately at the scene of the disaster, at the entrance to a sole tunnel leading to the festival grounds, but that no one died in the tunnel itself.

It’s the worst festival accident since nine people were crushed to death and 43 more were injured at Roskilde Festival, Denmark, in 2000. That was caused by a huge crowd in front of the main stage pushing forward during Pearl Jam’s set.