Final countdown to World Choir Games

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Choirs began to gather in Riga Tuesday ahead of the start of the World Choir Games, the centrepiece event of Latvia's year-long tenure as a European Capital of Culture, which runs July 9-19.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference to launch the event Riga mayor Nils Usakovs described it as: “The biggest event since regaining independence” and “The biggest event in the history of Riga”.

“The number of participants is unprecedented – neither China nor Germany managed so many,” Usakovs said.

The two-week long festival of the choral arts, encompassing everything from folkore to chanting to barbershop quartets will take place at venues across the Latvian capital as well as in the towns of Sigulda, Dobele, Jurmala, Salaspils and Pure.

In total the event will include 27,000 participants in 460 choirs from 73 countries, with the choir travelling the furthest to sing being the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir from Darlinghurst in New South Wales.

The largest choir will be the Singout Gospel Mass Choir from Germany with 109 singers.

Diana Civle of the Riga2014 Foundation said the event would “put Riga on the world map” and “symbolize what Riga is proud about – our choral traditions.”

Gunter Titsch, whose company Interkultur has run the World Choir Games since 2000, told LSM he did not have a total figure of the cost of the event but the previous event in Cincinatti, USA, which attracted 15,000 participants, had cost around 12 million euros.

“But in Cincinatti and in Graz in 2008, the World Choir Games brought around four to five dollars into the local economy for every dollar spent when you consider accommodation, travel and other costs,” Titsch said.

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