(Fixes typo in byline)
* 14,000 Latvians come out to help pass books to new library
* New "mountain shaped" building is called Castle of Light
* Riga expects 25 pct tourism boost from culture capital
By Aija Krutaine
RIGA, Jan 19 Latvians of all ages formed a human
chain in the freezing cold this weekend to pass books from the
old national library to a new one two km (1.2 miles) away as
part of festivities to celebrate Riga as Europe's culture
capital for 2014.
Some 14,000 people, including children and the elderly,
stood in temperatures of minus 12 degrees C (10 F) on Saturday
to pass some 2,000 books hand to hand to a new library designed
by Latvian-born U.S. architect Gunnar Birkerts.
The remainder of the library's more than 4 million books and
printed items will be moved by motorised transport.
The concrete building, clad with glass panels and
stainless-steel plates and resembling a mountain with a crown
atop, sits on a bank of the Daugava River near the capital's Old
Town and has been dubbed the Castle of Light.
Formerly a medieval outpost of the Hanseatic League of
trading nations, Riga's art nouveau buildings have earned its
historical centre a place on the UNESCO list of world heritage
As Europe's rotating culture capital this year in
conjunction with Umea in northern Sweden, Riga will host more
than 200 concerts, exhibitions, festivals, conferences and
The number of tourists to the city is expected to rise by 25
percent from 2013 to 2.1 million people, mayor Nils Usakovs
The arts programme was kicked off with the Latvian National
Opera's production of Richard Wagner's early opera "Rienzi" on
Friday. Wagner once lived in Riga, to escape his creditors back
in Germany, and it is where he started working on "Rienzi".
In July, a series of concerts, "Born in Riga", will bring
together world-renowned Latvian performers, including
violinist Gidon Kremer and opera singers Maija Kovalevska, Inese
Galante and Aleksandrs Antonenko.
The same month the "world choir games" will bring together
around 20,000 singers from 70 countries in Latvia, which is
famous for its choral-singing tradition.
Contemporary art works of Latvian-born American artist Vija
Celmina will be on display from April to June.
The Baltic state suffered the worst economic downturn in the
European Union in 2009, but after several years of austerity has
become one of the fastest growing economies in the bloc. The
country of 2 million adopted the euro on Jan. 1.
Initiated in 1985, the European Capital of Cultures
programme is intended to highlight the richness and diversity of
culture in Europe, according to the EU's website.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Sonya Hepinstall)