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Princess Victoria brings birthday fever to Swedish island

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Princess Victoria brings birthday fever to Swedish island
11:19 CEST+02:00
Thousands of well-wishers are expected to flock to Borgholm on the Swedish island of Öland to join in Crown Princess Victoria's 32nd birthday celebrations on Tuesday.

Ever year, the popular princess is feted in fine style outside Solliden Palace, where the royal family has its summer residence. Major artists perform in her honour and crowds throng to catch a glimpse of the future queen, if not in person at least on the big screens. Failing that, the July 14th festivities are also broadcast live on national television.

But it wasn't always thus: the instigators of the celebrations recall having no idea that the event would grow so popular. In 1979, the first year of the Victoria Day birthday bash, organizers seriously misjudged the magnetic draw of the then 2-year-old princess.

Initially Victoria Day was conceived of as an opportunity to confer an award for a major Swedish sporting achievement.

"It's quite funny. The first year it was [skier] Ingemar Stenmark who received the prize. We had done up tickets for 500 people and 7,000 came. We did it on a rickety old horse carriage more or less. These days the stage is enormous - it's a bit different," said chief organizer Kay Wiestål.

Victoria Day has now become something of a misnomer, as the festivities stretch out over a period of several days, encompassing everything from the Victorialoppet running race, to the Victoria Fair and the Victoria Golf tournament.

The event is also a real money spinner for the tourist industry in Öland, an island off the southeast coast of Sweden. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are drawn to the island around the time of the festivities, with 30,000 cars driving over the bridge from the city of Kalmar on July 14th alone, according to Gustaf Öholm, CEO of Ölands Turist.

"It's incredibly significant for Borgholm, of course, and for all of Öland. It's a very well-attended event," said Öholm.

The festivities begin at 1pm, when the crown princess will receive public congratulations outside Solliden Palace, before the party resumes at Borgholm sports grounds at around 6.30pm.

There are as yet no indications as to whether Victoria Day will continue after the princess weds her fiancé Daniel Westling next summer.

"We've said we'll take it one year at a time. It's fantastic to have been able to do this for 31 years," said Wiestål.

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