Zurich’s Street Parade will hold a minute of silence on Saturday to pay respects to the victims of the Love Parade stampede in Duisburg last month.
Organisers are confident about safety at the Zurich techno music festival – which includes 30 love mobiles and could see up to 900,000 partygoers - and have rejected claims that there will not be enough space for all the visitors to the event.
The normally staid banking city will become a riot of colour and music as hundreds of thousands of people descend on Zurich for the annual big party - the second largest of its kind - which starts at 1pm with the warm-up and goes on into the evening.
However, at 5pm the celebrations will fall silent. “We will remember the victims of Duisburg, there will be a minute with no music on the love mobiles and the big stages,” Stefan Epli, the parade’s spokesman, told swissinfo.ch.
On July 24 a mass panic at the Love Parade in Duisburg in Germany killed 21 people and caused injuries to 500.
A criminal investigation has been launched to determine whether the deaths should lead to charges of negligent manslaughter.
Police investigators have accused the Love Parade organisers of failing to control the huge crowds, leading to a bottleneck at a tunnel, the only entrance to the festival grounds. The city authorities have also come under fire for inadequate planning.
Epli says the Zurich festival has a different security concept, which has been tried and tested over 19 years.
“We made some small changes for this year’s Street Parade. We have moved some food and other stands to new positions so that everyone can go everywhere very quickly,” he explained.
Clearly marked exit signs have also been stationed along the parade route.
However, not everyone agrees about the safety levels. In certain areas of Zurich, such as the Quaibrücke bridge, there are likely to be five partygoers per square metre.
In an article in Wednesday’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, German security firm Psytech, which deals with crowd panic control, said that it had calculated that space was too tight at the event and that jumping into the water in an emergency would be “too risky”.
It poured doubt on whether there was a security concept that would allow for the evacuation of thousands of people from the water.
Epli rejected the claims, saying they were “really wrong. Maybe they don’t know exactly the geographic limits of the whole centre of Zurich”.
“There is definitely enough space for everyone and in the past years, we did not have any problems with cases like this.”
Epli expects 700,000-900,000 visitors – from all over the world - in good weather and several hundred thousand fewer if it rains. He does not expect numbers to be down after Duisburg.
“We really expect to have a friendly and nice party here,” he said.
There will be 30 love mobiles on the two-kilometre parade route around the lake. Seven stages will host bands and internationally acclaimed DJs.
Big bang mobile
One of the more unusual floats comes from Zurich University: “Professor Moore’s big bang truck” will bring astrophysics to the Street Parade.
It is the brainchild of Ben Moore, director of the institute for theoretical physics at the university, and guitar player in the band Milk67.
“It seemed natural to incorporate physics with music and to put on a show at the Street Parade that’s a little bit different from the usual love mobiles,” Moore told swissinfo.ch.
“So we’re going to use various effects to illustrate the interplay between sound and music, as well as some cool effects. Our music will also include sounds of the universe, the big bang and so on.”
Other cool effects include a specially-devised 3D laser harp and a one million-volt Tesla coil, which produces miniature lightning bolts with a frequency that can be played on a keyboard. Music will be provided by the band and students will populate the float.
Moore, originally from Britain and a veteran spectator of the parade, is not concerned about taking part as he says the organisation is very experienced. He also points out that usually crime and injuries are low during the event.
The big bang mobile should be good publicity for science at the university, says Moore.
“People will hopefully find it visually stimulating and fun,” he said. “And it shows that the university has more activities and is a cool place to be, as well as being an excellent place for education and research.”
Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich, swissinfo.ch
The Love Parade in Germany is considered the “Mother of all Love Parades” around the world. It was originally held in Berlin before it moved to the Ruhr region near the Dutch border.
A stampede at the 2010 event on July 24 in Duisburg killed 21 people and caused injuries to 500. As result the organisers of the festival announced no further Love Parade would be held.
Many people blame city mayor Adolf Sauerland and the authorities for failing to adequately plan for the event. Private organisers have also come under fire for allegedly trying to squeeze too many revellers into too small a space and for allowing only one access point onto the festival grounds. Sauerland in particular has denied any responsibility.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she expected a “scrupulously thorough investigation”.
On August 10 it emerged that 220 criminal complaints had been made to the justice authorities over the Love Parade. Most are against the organiser, the city of Duisburg and the police.
Addiction Info Switzerland is warning partygoers that some drugs on hand at the parade or parties afterwards might be mixed with other substances which could be harmful.
For example, cocaine could contain painkillers or the deworming substance levamisole. Ecstasy might contain m-CPP (meta-Chlorophenylpiperazine) instead of MDMA (ecstasy), which can lead to hallucinations. “If you want to avoid health risk, avoid drugs,” said the organisation’s Irene Abderhalden in a statement.
Also to be avoided: mixing drugs with alcohol, added the communiqué. A mix of alcohol and ecstasy, for example, can lead to the body drying out and overheating which damages internal organs.
Drugs testing and advice will be on hand at the parade through the youth advice organisation Streetwork.