By Ian McKenzie
EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Sunshine welcomed in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on Friday with more than 2,800 shows from comedians to ballet vying for audiences as the world's biggest annual arts festival opened its doors for another record year.
Buskers, comics, acrobats and actors turn Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile, into a vast open-air theatre, as crowds in their thousands flock to a record number of shows through to August 26.
The Fringe links up with the up-market Edinburgh International Festival, International Book Festival, television festival, museum and galleries and the Royal Military Tattoo as the Scottish capital more than doubles in population, with visitors from around the world boosting the Scottish economy.
Every available space is occupied and massive tents erected to accommodate the shows and a record 24,107 artists from 41 countries vying for audiences this year.
The Fringe acts as a global showcase for established and wannabe artists, drawing acts and talent-spotters from across the planet.
"It's a very valuable place for a company or an artist to bring their work for the exposure it can give them, not just to a public audience, but to an industry audience, to the media and to their peers who come from all over the world," Fringe Chief Executive Kath Mainland noted.
Eighty pre-teen Chinese students from Beijing are due to perform their version of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", while Danish bagpiper Claus Reiss shows his comic side.
Scottish writer and director Kevin Toolis brings political satire in "The Confessions of Gordon Brown" with actor Ian Grieve giving an impressively dour performance of the former British prime minister.
Add to the mix giant puppets, ground-breaking theatre, music and dance for a staggering array of attractions.
The International Festival runs from August 9 to September 2, and the Book Festival - celebrating its 30th year -- from August 10 to 26 with over 800 events.
The International Festival and Fringe were both founded in 1947 as an antidote to the biting austerity of the years following World War Two.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)