Munich Mayor Survives Key Political Test: Tapping The First Keg Every year at Oktoberfest, the mayor of Munich, Germany, faces a public challenge — driving a tap into the ceremonial first beer barrel. Expectations were especially high for new mayor Dieter Reiter.
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Munich Mayor Survives Key Political Test: Tapping The First Keg

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Munich Mayor Survives Key Political Test: Tapping The First Keg

Munich Mayor Survives Key Political Test: Tapping The First Keg

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Ready for a drink? Well, we're going to take you to Munich. It's that time of year again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EIN PROSIT")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemuetlichkeit. Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemuetlichkeit.

RATH: That's right, meine Freund - Oktoberfest, a city-wide festival that makes Burning Man look like a house party. The city is now a week into the celebration of Bavarian traditions, Lederhosen and overflowing mugs of beer. Millions flock to Munich for the annual festival. The chatter ahead of this year's fest was especially focused on the performance of Munich's new mayor, Dieter Reiter. You see, it's the mayor's job to officially open the ceremonies by tapping the first barrel of beer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVAL RECORDING)

DIETER REITER: (Speaking German) Es sind noch neun, acht, sieben, sechs...

RATH: The previous mayor was Christian Ude. By the time he'd left office, he could get the beer flowing with just two swings of the hammer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVAL RECORDING)

CHRISTIAN UDE: (Speaking German) O'zapft is. Auf eine friedliche Wiesn 2006.

RATH: It's a major point of pride among mayors. How many hammer blows does it take to tap the keg? We called up Christoph Deumling in Munich. He's a host with the Bavarian public broadcaster. And he's broadcast live at the keg tapping 10 times.

CHRISTOPH DEUMLING: (Speaking German) Es ist nicht die wichtigste Amtshandlung, aber es ist die am meisten beachtete Amtshandlung.

RATH: He says this is not the most important job for a Munich mayor, but it is the most watched.

DEUMLING: (Speaking German) So da kann links und rechts die Welt untergehen, wenn der...

RATH: Even if the world ends, he says, so long as the mayor can tap the keg in two or three blows, everything's OK. And with consistently two blows to tap the keg, Mayor Christian Ude set a pretty high bar. But the moment lost some excitement.

DEUMLING: (Speaking German) Es war jetzt gerade in gewisser Weise schon ein bisschen langweilig - extremely boring.

RATH: Which brings us to this year and Munich's brand-new mayor Dieter Reiter. Deumling says the tension was high. Mayor Reiter took up a rigorous training regimen, tapping 40 kegs in a row to prepare.

DEUMLING: (Speaking German) Er wusste wenn er mehr...

RATH: Deumling says if the mayor needed more than five or six hammer blows, it would've been a disgrace.

(SOUNDBITE OF CELEBRATION)

RATH: In the end...

REITER: (Speaking German) Drei, zwei, eins.

(CHEERING)

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMMER BLOWS)

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMMER BLOWS)

REITER: (Speaking German) Alles drauf. O'zapft is. Auf eine friedliche Wiesn.

RATH: If you couldn't quite make that out, that was four hammer blows - or three and a half, depending on who you asked. Not bad for a first timer. Christoph Deumling says that at least he left himself some room for improvement next time. And in the end, the beer still flowed on time.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAVARIAN MUSIC)

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