International journalists have high praise for Cincinnati's World Choir Games

CINCINNATI - Roger Schmidt has seen and heard a lot through the years while covering five World Choir Games competitions.

However, the German freelance journalist said Thursday that Cincinnati is his favorite venue, hands down.

"The games here are so powerful -- so successful for all," he said.  "For me, it's the best games I've ever seen."

Many of the international journalists visiting the Queen City share that opinion -- especially in terms of Cincinnati's organization and friendliness.

Schmidt's stories and photos are being sent to the Frankfurt area, where INTERKULTUR, the games' sponsoring organization, has its headquarters.

"The message is the U.S.A. is open. Cincinnati is special. It's a wonderful place to live, to visit as a tourist and it's a wonderful place for culture," he said.

When it comes to favorite places, Schmidt said Fountain Square wins the gold medal.

"It's a beautiful mix of all countries," he said.  "Every evening I saw Cincinnati guys celebrate and party with guys from Europe or from Asia or from Africa and that's what brings us together. Singing brings the world together."

Dispatches sent to the German newspaper "Weltspiegel" and stories posted by "Zeit Online" have compared Cincinnati's World Choir Games to the Olympics.

INTERKULTUR Secretary General Stefan Piendl said "Weltspiegel" is Germany's second largest weekly newspaper with a couple of million readers.

Piendl quoted one story, which had high praise for the Queen City in saying, "In week one, unfortunately, there is no champion from the U.S.  No choir from the U.S., but already Cincinnati is the world champion in hospitality."

"I think that's a wonderful message," he added.

Tracey Vanden Aardweg is traveling with a choir from Durban, South Africa, and said she loved the Parade of Nations the best.

"We have a comrade marathon that is run where people line the roads for 90 kilometers," she said.  "This was a much shorter and more intense kind of version of that, but the interest and the support was fantastic."

The friendliness of Cincinnatians impressed Elaine Sussman the most. She, too, is with the Durban group.

"We have been so warmly welcomed and actually have been thanked for coming here," she said.  "I think that anyone in the world would just enjoy this day in Cincinnati."

Syann Thompson was once a member of the Bahamas National Youth Choir and competed in the World Choir Games.  Now, she's covering the ensemble as a Senior Journalist for the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas.

"It has been wonderful," she stated.  "It took me by surprise from the airport, the welcome at the airport, the bus drivers, the people at the hotel and people on the side of the road.  Everywhere you go it's a community effort.  It's a city effort.  It's like everybody came together to make this happen and to make people feel at home and really welcome us."

"Cincinnati is a fun city," chimed in Donald Knowles, who is shooting video for the Bahamas National Youth Choir and supplying local media there with stories.

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