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TOURISM

Eurovision spending mess endangers tourism

The chairman of the board of tourist organisation Wonderful Copenhagen steps down while regional politicians debate a cut in funding that the tourism industry fears will negatively impact business.

Eurovision spending mess endangers tourism
Conchita Wurst's victory could end up costing Denmark's tourism industry. Photo: Erlend Aas/Scanpix
The chairman of the board of tourist organisation Wonderful Copenhagen has resigned as a result of the massive overspending on May’s Eurovision contest. 
 
Michael Metz-Mørch’s resignation was welcomed by the chairwoman of the Capital Region (Region Hovedstaden), Sophie Hæstrop Andersen. 
 
Michael Metz-Mørch. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen“With the Eurovision Song Contest, Wonderful Copenhagen has put itself in the difficult situation where there needs to be major changes in the organisation. There needs to be a calm so that we can restore confidence in Wonderful Copenhagen’s ability to carry out the important task of promoting tourism,” she told Danmarks Radio.
 
Earlier this month, final budget figures revealed that Projektselskabet, a temporary company created by Wonderful Copenhagen to put on the Eurovision bonanza, overshot its budget by some 76 million kroner ($13.6 million). 
 
 
Fabian Holt, an associate producer at Roskilde University who has done extensive research in live events and venues, told The Local earlier this month that he expected a “bloodbath” as individual responsibility would start to be placed on the “disastrous management” involved in staging the Eurovision contest.
 
May’s event in the repurposed B&W Hallerne ended up with a total deficit of 58 million kroner ($10.4 million), which will now have to be covered by Copenhagen Council, Region Hovedstaden, Wonderful Copenhagen and Refshaleøens Ejendomsselskab A/S. 
 
At a Region Hovedstaden meeting last week, Hæstrop Andersen proposed giving Wonderful Copenhagen a cash injection to cover the costs that would then be countered by a corresponding reduction in basic support to the tourist organisation in the coming years. 
 
But those in the tourism industry have warned against the move, saying it would lead to a tourism decline that could hurt numerous Copenhagen businesses and the 48,000 workers employed in the city’s tourism industry. 
 
Katia Østergaard, the head of Horests, the national trade association for the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry, advised against a cut in future tourism support. 
 
“The tourism industry is a core business area for the capital. Not just for the people who work directly in the industry in hotels, restaurants and attractions, but also for the people who work in the retail and transport industries, among others,” Østergaard told Danmarks Radio.
 
“Denmark is a very small destination out in the big wide world and therefore it requires that we are in a position to put Denmark and our capital on the world map,” she added.
 
A one-time payment from Region Hovedstaden would allow Wonderful Copenhagen to pay off its debt to Danmarks Radio,which loaned Projektselskabet 43 million kroner during preparations for Eurovision. Danmarks Radio has repeatedly rejected any notion that it bares responsibility for Eurovision running so massively over its budget. 

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TOURISM

Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

A refuge for anarchists, hippies and artists, Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania turns 50 on Sunday, and though it hasn't completely avoided the encroachment of modernity and capitalism, its free-wheeling soul remains intact.

Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on
Christiania, one of Copenhagen's major tourist attractions, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday. JENS NOERGAARD LARSEN / SCANPIX / AFP

Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania is seen by some as a progressive social experiment, while others simply see it as a den of drugs.

On September 26th, 1971, a band of guitar-laden hippies transformed an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen into their home. They raised their “freedom flag” and named their new home “Christiania, Freetown” after the part of the city where it is located.

They wanted to establish an alternative society, guided by the principles of peace and love, where decisions were made collectively and laws were not enforced.

Soft drugs were freely available, and repurposing, salvaging and sharing was favoured over buying new.

It was a community “that belonged to everybody and to no one”, said Ole Lykke, who moved into the 34-hectare (84-acre) enclave in the 1970s.

These principles remain well-rooted today, but the area has changed in many ways: tourists weave through its cobblestone roads, and the once-reviled market economy is in full swing.

Perhaps most importantly, it is no longer a squat. Residents became legal landowners when they bought some of the land from the Danish state in 2012.

Now it is home to some 900 people, many artists and activists, along with restaurants, cafes and shops, popular among the half a million tourists that visit annually.

“The site is more ‘normal’,” says a smiling Lykke, a slender 75-year-old with ruffled silver hair, who passionately promotes Christiania, its independence and thriving cultural scene.

Legislation has been enforced since 2013 — though a tongue-in-cheek sign above the exit points out that those leaving the area will be entering the European Union.

‘Embrace change’
It is Christiania’s ability to adapt with the times that has allowed it to survive, says Helen Jarvis, a University of Newcastle professor of social geography engagement.

“Christiania is unique,” says Jarvis, who lived in Christiania in 2010.

“(It) endures because it continues to evolve and embrace change”.

Some of those changes would have been unthinkable at the start.

Residents secured a bank loan for several million euros to be able to buy the land, and now Christiania is run independently through a foundation.

They also now pay wages to the around 40 people employed by Christiania, including trash collectors and daycare workers.

“Money is now very important,” admits Lykke, who is an archivist and is currently exhibiting 100 posters chronicling Christiania’s history at a Copenhagen museum.

But it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“Socially and culturally, Christiania hasn’t changed very much,” he says, noting that the community’s needs still come first.

‘Judged a little’
Christiania has remained a cultural hub — before the pandemic almost two dozen concerts were held every week and its theatres were packed.

But it is still beset by its reputations as a drugs hub.

Though parts of Christiania are tranquil, lush and green with few buildings, others are bustling, with a post office, mini-market, healthcare centre, and Pusher Street, the notorious drug market.

Lykke says it’s a side of Christiania most could do without.

“Most of us would like to get rid of it. But as long as (marijuana use) is prohibited, as long as Denmark doesn’t want to decriminalise or legalise, we will have this problem,” says Lykke.

While still officially illegal, soft drugs like marijuana and hash are tolerated — though not in excess.

Since early 2020, Copenhagen police have seized more than one tonne of cannabis and more than a million euros.

“Sometimes I don’t tell people that I live here because you get judged a little bit. Like, ‘Oh, you must be into marijuana and you must be a smoker’,” says Anemone, a 34-year-old photographer.

For others, Christiania’s relaxed nature is part of the appeal.

“It’s different from what I know, I really want to see it,” laughs Mirka, a Czech teacher who’s come to have a look around.

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