Riga and Umeå named European Capitals of Culture 2014

14 FEBRUARY 2014

Riga (Latvia) and Umeå (Sweden) are named the European Capitals of Culture in 2014. The cultural programme has officially begun on 17 January in the Latvian capital and on 31 January in Umeå.

015/2011 the grand opening by rosiepaw - Found on Flickr (CC) http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosipaw/5359798022/The European Capital of Culture is one of the most successful and high-profile cultural initiatives of the European Union. The cities are selected by an independent panel on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, engage local people of all ages, and contribute to the long-term development of the city.

Launching Riga
Riga opens its festivities with special events at museums, cafes and other venues, including exhibitions on Baltic amber and on the impact of the First World War on culture. In 1989, during the ‘Baltic Way’ campaign, the people of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania formed a human chain to express their hope for independence from the former Soviet Union. On 18 January, the people of Riga stood up for culture. Members of the public recall the events by passing books from hand to hand, from the old National Library to the new building on the other side of the Daugava River.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, together with Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, participated in various events including the launch of ‘Taste and Feel 2014!’ which offered the public a taste of the year’s cultural programme.

In the evening of 18 January, at the river fire sculptures were created by teams from 12 countries – Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, France, UK, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, USA and Australian- lightshow and fireworks. The city Mayor, Nils Ušakovs, later hosted a concert at Riga Arena, in the presence of Commissioner Vassiliou, entitled ‘Riga through centuries and cultures’. The concert featured Latvian classical, world and popular music artists, choirs and orchestras.

Launching Umeå
The launch of Umeå 2014 has taken place over the weekend of 31 January to 2 February, day and night, with the opening ‘Burning Snow’ ceremony on Saturday as a high point. The city’s residents gathered with guests from all over Europe to witness the launch of the year.

The main events were held on and around the Umeälven River, with a choreographed festival of light, music, song and movement. The ‘City of Winter’ was transformed with burning pillars of ice and fires to provide light, warmth and meeting points. The heart of Umeå, Rådhustorget, turned into a Sami village with glowing cauldrons and reindeer.