|A royal visit, a parade, performers, fantastic costumes and pulsating rhythms set the scene on 12 January when Stavanger launched its year as "European City of Culture". This prestigious title is awarded by the EU and went to Stavanger and Liverpool this year. Bergen is the only other city in Norway to share this honour. The vision for Stavanger 2008 is "Open Port". This is based on core values such as tolerance, freedom of speech, hospitality, accessibility, cultural heritage, innovation, environment, aesthetics and architecture.
The city has a full programme of activities for the year. Herring fishing, shipping and shipbuilding put Stavanger squarely on the map in the 19th century. By 1870 Stavanger had become the fourth largest city in Norway, a position it maintains today. Following the crisis in the world economy in the 1870s and 80s and a decline in the herring fisheries, the city languished for some years. Between 1880 and 1895, more than 10,000 persons emigrated from Stavanger to the USA. Then the sardine saved the day and gave the region a new start. Around 100 fish canning factories grew up from the turn of the century and onwards. This new economic growth encouraged the establishment of other industries in the region. Sandnes became the centre of pottery and brickworks. Egersund became known for its china, and in J?ren agricultural equipment was manufactured on a large scale. Stavanger and Haugesund played a leading role in shipbuilding and shipping in Norway. Then came oil. When oil was discovered in the Ekofisk field in the North Sea in 1969, Stavanger offered a natural base for further oil exploration and recovery. Stavanger is now the oil and gas capital of Northern Europe. The city has moreover developed a rich cultural life and became a university city in 2005. The programme for Stavanger 2008 includes the issue of three stamps. The subjects for two of them were chosen by Stavanger Aftenblad's readers: "The Thousandth Heart", from a family musical performed by the Rogaland Theatre, and "Swords in Rock", a national memorial by sculptor Fritz Roed to Harald Fairhair's victory at the decisive Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872, which united Norway into one kingdom. Norway Post's choice for the third stamp, "Dancer in a Cultural Landscape", was another of the alternatives in the Aftenbladet poll.