BERLIN (Reuters) - The Love Parade, billed as the world’s largest techno dance party, was created in Berlin in 1989 as a demonstration for peace, tolerance and understanding through love and music.
On Saturday, 15 people were killed when mass panic broke out at this year’s Love Parade in the western city of Duisburg.
It was held almost annually in Berlin between 1989 and 2006, attracting more than one million participants, before it moved to different towns in the western German Ruhr region from 2007. There was a peak in Berlin of 1.5 million participants in 1999.
Flamboyant costumes, energetic dancers and bare-breasted women and gay men with sequinned shorts were regular features of the Parade, gyrating to the pulsating beats of techno music from giant floats that rolled slowly through the center of Berlin.
During the 1990s — before the German government moved from Bonn back to Berlin — the Love Parade was heralded as one of the city’s biggest attractions, drawing participants and tourists from around the world.
The Love Parade filled an important gap for Berlin’s struggling tourism sector after the Berlin Wall was quickly torn down in late 1989 and 1990. It helped establish Berlin’s image as one of the world’s most exciting cities for young people.
More than one million music lovers from around the world regularly crowded into Berlin for a six-km-long (four-mile) gyrating party of dancing, drinking and outlawed substances.
Local political leaders also became enthusiastic supporters because the parade filled the city’s hotels, pumping more than $65 million a year into Berlin’s economy in its heyday.
It was not uncommon to see teenagers and octogenarians spontaneously dancing with each other to the 150 beat-per-minute techno sounds. It grew from a modest start in 1989 with 150 people to 750,000 in 1996 and over a million a year after that.
Many revelers fuel their dance marathon with drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamines.
The parade originally ran down the elegant Kurfuerstendamm shopping boulevard, but stores complained about damage after the 1995 event and it moved to Strasse der 17 Juni, an eight-lane boulevard, through the heart of the five-km long Tiergarten to the Brandenburg Gate where the Berlin Wall once stood.
Beginning in the early afternoon, the parade usually culminated just before midnight with dozens of elaborate floats gathering at the Prussian Victory Column in the middle of the Tiergarten for a final bash.
Environmental groups in Berlin tried to get organizers to build fences alongside the road to keep revelers from destroying the plant and animal life. They refused, citing the dangers the fences would cause if there were a panic.
The Love Parade left Berlin for the western Ruhr cities after a dispute about permits.
Editing by Stephen Brown and Peter Graff