Edinburgh hopes Fringe can cash in on Olympics

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Edinburgh hopes Fringe can cash in on Olympics

EDINBURGH - The serious, anarchic and comedy-strewn Edinburgh Fringe has kicked into high gear this weekend with a record number of shows and performers crowding the Scottish capital and giving a welcome boost to the economy as the city’s population doubles over the month-long festival season.

The usual Fringe buzz was subdued on the Friday opening, but warm sunshine helped bring out the crowds on Saturday and festival organizers are looking for spin-off visits from the London Olympics. Organizers of the Edinburgh festivals worked closely with London to take advantage of the Olympics, Paralympics and cultural Olympiad there.

The Fringe, the more sedate International Festival of the arts, the Book Festival and the highly popular Royal Military Tattoo combine to produce the world’s biggest annual arts extravaganza, which was founded in 1947 as an antidote to post-war austerity.

The official Fringe program lists a record 2,695 shows, plus more on the “Free Fringe,” with an influx of nearly 23,000 performers this year. Festivals in Scotland are worth about £250 million ($389.99 million) to the economy annually, with the Fringe itself bringing in £140 million to Edinburgh alone.

The Fringe runs to Aug. 27

Among a random selection, Irish singer Sharon Sexton is Liza Minnelli in a stunning performance of “Somewhere Under the Rainbow - The Liza Minnelli Story,” while Fringe veteran Guy Masterson directs “A Soldier’s Song,” the searing true story of a Falklands War veteran.

A new comedy “Coalition” takes a quirky look at British politics with Liberal-Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg finding his career taking an unexpected twist.

There is a focus on South Africa this year at the Assembly as part of a run-up to the 20th anniversary of the country’s Freedom Vote that ended white rule in 1994 with Nelson Mandela’s election as president.

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