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A blast of Oxegen

More than 35,000 music fans got the party started early last night as the curtain lifted on Oxegen music festival 2009.

Gates at the campsite at Punchestown opened at noon. Four hours later it was transformed into a sea of tents as 20,000 eager revellers got a head start on festivities.

By last night, organisers estimated that around 35,000 festival goers had already arrived.

A similar number of campers are expected to arrive today with 80,000 people altogether, including day-ticket holders, flocking to the Co Kildare venue over the course of the weekend for music from headliners Blur, Kings Of Leon and The Killers. The early-comers were rewarded with an extra night of entertainment on the Thursday Night Live Stage.

The music had a decidedly retro feel with a host of cover bands aping everyone from The Stone Roses and Oasis to AC/DC and the party continuing until 2am.

And while weather forecasters are predicting a soaking at this year's Oxegen, style-conscious ladies weren't letting their standards slip — even in the middle of a field. The ‘Pull Parlour' salon had a steady stream of customers throughout yesterday as festival goers treated themselves to hair extensions, massages and make-up sessions.

AA Roadwatch said routes in the area had been busy, however there were no major delays.

The music kicks off today at 2pm and peak arrival time is expected to be between then and 7pm. Fans are being urged to use public transport or, if driving, to add at least three hours extra on to their normal journey time.

Dublin Bus will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last month's Slane fiasco which saw chaos as tens of thousands of Oasis fans attempted to leave the Meath venue. It is operating a fleet of over 500 buses to and from Parnell Square in Dublin city centre and Punchestown, with the first bus leaving at midday and continuing until 9pm. Journeys from the city centre to the racecourse were taking just over one hour yesterday.

With people from all the country gathering in large numbers in one location, fears have been raised about the possibility of a rapid spread of swine flu. A contingency plan will swing into action in the event of an outbreak.

It is understood that isolation facilities and a supply of the anti-viral Tamiflu will be available if needed, while officials from the Health Service Executive will be on site over the course of the three-day festival. Revellers will also be given information on the symptoms of swine flu and what to do if they think they have it.

Over 160 medics will be working at Oxegen, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, first-aiders and A&E consultants.

And, for the first time at a European music festival, an X-ray machine will be onsite for speedy diagnosis of broken bones.

Belfast Telegraph

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