Rīga gets nod to be a European Capital of Culture in 2014

Rīga is expected to be one of two cities designated as a European Capital of Culture in 2014, raising its profile across the continent, officials announced in a Sept. 15 press conference in Latvia.

The designation, expected to be confirmed by the European Union’s Council of Ministers next spring, could provide Latvia’s capital city with a boost in tourism and other investment.

“This is the beginning of a great adventure,” Ján Figel’, the member of the European Commission responsible for education, training, culture and youth, said in a press release.

Rīga was one of three Latvian finalists for the title. Cēsis, which marked its 800th anniversary in 2006, and the Baltic Sea port of Liepāja also were under consideration.

“I am delighted with Rīga’s success and would like to congratulate the local authorities and the team that prepared the application,” Figel’ said. “Rīga has great potential for being the European Capital of Culture. Bearing this title for one year will certainly place this city in the spotlight and create enormous potential for it to develop locally and raise its profile across Europe.”

Figel’ noted that Latvian officials have plenty of work ahead to benefit fully from the designation. According to the European Commission, being chosen a European Capital of Culture requires an “exceptional” program of cultural events take place during the year a city has the designation. The events should highlight the city’s European character and must involve its citizens.

Rīga Mayor Nils Ušakovs said the designation will help strengthen Rīga’s and Latvia’s role in the Baltic Sea region.

“All inhabitants of the state will benefit in 2014, because Rīga is prepared to be the gateway to Latvia,” the mayor said in a press release.

Ojārs Kalniņš, director of the Latvian Institute, also expressed pleasure with the designation.

“It’s no secret that Rīga has been the diring force of Latvia’s tourism boom in recent years,” he told Latvians Online in an e-mail. “I think this decision gives a clear signal to the state and city governments that continued development of Latvia’s tourism infrastructure is one the keys to our economic recovery. This is clearly an advantage for the city of Rīga, but we must learn how to turn it into an economic benefit for all of Latvia.”

Rīga would share the designation with the Swedish city of Umeå.

Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, is one of two European Capitals of Culture this year. Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, will share the designation with Turku, Finland, in 2011.

The first European Capital of Culture was Athens in 1985.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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