BERLIN – The Munich Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer festival, got off to a punctual start Saturday at 12:00 noon, with heightened security measures due to the fear of terrorist attacks, above all by heavy vehicles like those used at Nice, Berlin and, more recently, Barcelona.
The beer began to flow from the first barrel after its tap was struck twice with a mallet by Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter, who opened the festival with the annual cry “O’zapft is!. Auf eine friedliche Wiesn!” – something like “It’s open. In this peaceful meadow!” – a reference to the place where the festival is held, the “Theresienwiese” (Theresa’s Meadow).
Next, according to custom, the mayor served the head of the Bavarian government, Horst Seehofer, the first liter of beer known as the “Maß,” which this year costs 10.95 euros, 25 cents more than last year.
The few clouds at dawn did not scare away the imbibers, who stood in line for hours before the fairground opened at 9:00 am, so they could get a good place to watch the Oktoberfest inauguration, expected to be attended during its 18 days until Oct. 3 by some 6 million people.
At peak hours, some 300 police of a total of 600 deployed will watch over the festival both on the premises and in the surrounding areas, while 1,600 security guards are mostly in charge of guarding the entrances and inside the tents.
Like last year, Theresa’s Meadow is surrounded by fences, the entrances are closed to vehicles with concrete barriers, and no one can enter with backpacks or large bags.
Security will also be reinforced with additional high-definition spy cameras and bodycams.
The organization has also installed a new loudspeaker system to alert visitors about any danger and to better direct the movement of crowds in case of an alarm.
Trucks bringing food can only enter the fairground when no festival-goers are present, and will be submitted to random checks, while identity and background information about drivers and their assistants have been verified beforehand.
Meanwhile, the three-day weather report forecasts light rain on Saturday, downpours on Sunday and a brief break on Monday with cloudy skies but no rain.