Tight security, recession dampen Munich beer fest

(AFP) -

The number of revellers at Munich's world-famous beer festival dropped this year, the city's tourist office said Sunday, amid economic woes and tighter security following messages from Islamic extremists.

Only 5.7 million drinkers staggered through the beer tents during the two-week jolly, compared with six million the year before. The record attendance was 7.1 million in 1985.

However, those that did make the trip drank more on average than last year, with some 6.5 million litres (11.4 pints) consumed, compared with six million in 2008.

Non-alcoholic drinks proved a major hit during the balmy summer weather, with sales up by 10 percent.

But the party-goers proved less keen to splash out on meals, souvenirs and fairground rides, although a total of 111 oxen were eaten, a rise on the 104 munched last year.

Security was stepped up hugely at the event following a string of video messages from Islamic extremists in the run-up to Germany's general election on September 27, with two of them apparently targeting the Oktoberfest.

Armed police searched people as they came in, and cars were banned from parking nearby.

In addition, private security guards also searched bags as people entered the festival's immense tents, and once inside there was a visible security presence. There were also a large number of surveillance cameras.

On one of the days, a light aircraft advertising beer caused minor panic among visitors after it flew over the site and circled around at low altitude, organisers said. Since then a no-fly zone was put in place over the festival.

Nevertheless, the Munich tourist office described the two-week event as "brilliant" and said the visitors were "calm" in the face of the increased security presence.

Police also hailed the festival as a success and reported roughly the same number of incidents (1,395) as last year, although more arrests -- 716 -- were made.

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