Becker, not beer, is key to new Oktoberfest success

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The Independent Online

Once dismissed as a "beer drinking factory" for thigh-slapping Teutons in leather shorts and long socks, the Munich Oktoberfest is claiming a new-found role as one of Germany's most fashionable events attracting unprecedented crowds of twentysomething visitors with a record turnover of €1bn (£700m) this year alone.

Boris Becker may have something to do with the revival of the festival, which started life more than 250 years ago as a cattle market for down-at-heel farmers. For the past week, Germany's tabloid newspapers and the society pages of the country's highly colourful celebrity magazine Bunte have been filled with photographs of the former tennis champion

In one photo, Becker, wearing his usual open-necked white shirt, was sandwiched between two extraordinarily buxom females who were visibly struggling to cope with the strain imposed by the tight waistlines of their Bavarian peasant-style dirndl dresses worn traditionally at the event. " Boris Becker clearly enjoyed the Oktoberfest between girlfriend Lilly Kerssenberg and Estefania Küster," intoned Bunte, "The next day he donated €50,000 to charity," the magazine added.

Scores of other German celebrities, minor aristocrats and politicians have flocked to this year's Oktoberfest. In their wake have come thousands of young Germans under the age of 30 who currently make up a staggering 60 per cent of the visitors to the festival.

"The Oktoberfest has discarded its old fashioned image and is chic again, especially for the young," observed Germany's normally critical Der Spiegel magazine. "The new generation voluntarily dons the Bavarian peasant look – long socks, leather trousers, aprons and blouses from which squeezed breasts quell forth like steamed dumplings."

Last year, the Oktoberfest pulled in a record €995m with nearly half of the income derived from the array of highly organised and decorated beer tents and the funfair. More than 6.5 million visited the festival and consumed more than a litre of beer per head and 58,000 litres of wine.

GabrieleWeishäupl, the Oktoberfest's managing director attributes much of the event's success to the fact it has remained authentic and not allowed itself to be seduced by the public relations departments of large companies and turned into a platform for advertising. "All that is now verboten", Mrs Weishäupl said.

Although the Oktoberfest has the equivalent of a written constitution which prohibits advertising, the event was hijacked last year by Paris Hilton attempting to market canned Prosecco. The car hire magnate Regine Sixt also advertised her firm with the help of a large BMW saloon and a posse of samba dancers.

This year the Oktoberfest, which ends tomorrow, has banned explicit advertising although beer mugs and mats and napkin rings are still allowed to be decorated with company logos.

The event is nevertheless traditionally Bavarian to the hilt – offering a seemingly endless supply of sausage, roast ox, sauerkraut and millions of litres of beer to its clientele to the sound of constant oompah music. The traditional tents run by Bavarian breweries are visited by troupes of dirndl and lederhosen-clad Munich company employees on annual office outings.

Their presence helps to reinforce Bavaria's image abroad as a happy go-lucky Hans and Gretel state that unlike the rest of Germany has managed to airbrush away its Nazi past. One German newspaper commented acidly: "In a Bavarian's thought process, Hitler was a German phenomenon. Munich is somehow clean despite the fact that it was once the capital of the [Nazi] movement."