750,000 party in Brussels to celebrate Belgium
22 July 2005, BRUSSELS — Mass crowds gathered in Brussels on Thursday as Belgium celebrated Independence Day with church services, a military parade and street parties.
22 July 2005
BRUSSELS — Mass crowds gathered in Brussels on Thursday as Belgium celebrated Independence Day with church services, a military parade and street parties.
Brussels police commissioner Christian de Coninck said about 750,000 people visited Brussels, more than previous years. About 60,000 onlookers gathered at the Kruidtuin (botanic gardens) for the city's fireworks.
This year's national day holiday held extra significance as Belgium celebrated 175 years of independence and 25 years of federalism.
The day passed off largely without incident in the capital, but traffic problems were reported as various streets and city squares were closed off for festivities.
However, the traffic problems were limited because many people opted to take public transport, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported. Others left earlier because of the rain.
The day started with church services in several cities across the nation. In Brussels, King Albert II, Queen Paola and other royals attended the traditional service in the Saint Michael and Saint Goedele Cathedral.
Nato chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also attended the city's service.
Crown Prince Filip and Princess Matilda attended a church service in Hasselt, but encountered an anti-monarchist protest by a group of young Flemish separatists from the New Flemish Alliance (NV-A) party. Police arrested 15 protestors.
Much of the 21 July activities centered on Brussels, which was teeming with free performances, food stalls, sport demonstrations and a folkloristic parade of large puppets.
About 100,000 people also watched a traditional military march in Brussels at 3pm — the last time that Belgian World War II veterans were to participate.
Some 1,600 military personnel, including Dutch and French troops, were involved in the march and the event coincided with a flyover of 15 helicopters and 43 planes. Six jets coloured the sky black, yellow and red — the Belgian national colours.
The Belgian Parliament opened its doors to the public in Brussels, while folk music was on offer at Warande Park and Koningstraat. The park also played host to an Olympicnic, a multi-sport event for youth.
On the city's Congresplein, several thousand people tasted the cooking of master chefs, while a soap box race was held in front of the Court House. Young musicians performed on the Vossenplein.
Much was made of the fact an attempt to break the world record for the biggest marching band failed on Wednesday night. Exactly 11,158 players were required to beat the Japanese claim, but the Belgian attempt fell sort of the mark.
The City of Brussels and The Hergé Foundation joined forces to organise a four-day festival dedicated to one of Belgium's most famous sons, the cartoon character Tintin.
The festival started in Brussels on Wednesday night with the unveiling of a mural on Stoofstraat, close to Grand Place.
But for newspaper 'De Standaard', there was very little on offer during Thursday's celebrations in Brussels as it complained there was little street ambiance.
But not so for Flemish public broadcaster VRT, which lauded the colourful event to celebrate 175 years of independence.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news