ESSEN (AP).- The Ruhr area in western Germany, with its 53 cities and 5.3 million inhabitants, has been officially inaugurated as European Capital of culture 2010 the first time an entire region was chosen for the title.
German President Horst Koehler said Saturday at the opening ceremony in Essen that in the Ruhr area, which is known for its history of coal mining and steel production, "culture is not an elite event, but it is providing vivid strength for everybody."
Thousands of art and cultural events are planned for the year and more than five million visitors are expected.
Since the decline of coal mining at the end of the last century, the once highly industrialized region has been struggling with severe unemployment and poverty.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.