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Europride Returns to Glad-to-be-Gay Stockholm

A decade after Stockholm first hosted Europride, the Swedish capital is again gearing up for the 10-day event that attracts thousands of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders from near and afar.

Two women participate in a gay pride parade in Warsaw, Poland

The party atmosphere will have a serious tone as Europride focuses on repression

The event includes special film screenings, museum exhibitions, seminars and parties and is capped with a parade on August 2 through the city that organizers anticipate will attract record numbers of participants and spectators.

"This year is 40 percent larger than last year," parade coordinator Paul Turner told DPA news agency of the number of groups that have applied to take part in the colorful parade that in 2007 attracted some 500,000 spectators.

Based on 2007 tallies, the number would translate into some 75,000 people taking part in the parade, Turner said while reading out groups that have applied so far.

Groups ranged from "a 112 section" -- referring to the emergency service telephone number used to alert the police, fire brigade and other emergency services -- to political parties, gay choirs, gay allotment gardeners "with their flowers," the national teachers union, nurses and doctors as well as parent and sibling groups formed to support homosexuals, he said.

"This year the Swedish fire brigade is coming into the parade for the first time," Turner said, adding that fire service members have been allowed to march in uniform with a fire engine and had also invited gay colleagues from the London fire brigade to join them.

Europride opens Friday, July 24 at the Skansen open air museum with a popular sing-along event and speeches by gender science professor Tiina Rosenberg, Swedish EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmstrom and Indian Prince Mavendra Singh Gohil.

Focus on repressed neighbors in the east

Jonah Nylund, president of the Stockholm Pride, told DPA news agency that three speakers had been selected to give different perspectives on the Europride week theme "Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders."

"The theme has two aims. One is to show pride over the progress made in Sweden" for homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders, Nylund said.

Police block screaming anti-gay demonstrators near a hotel, where gay rights activists gathered, in downtown Riga, Latvia

Gays in some eastern nations face violent opposition

"The other is to highlight the problems in the rest of the world, mainly our neighbors in Eastern Europe where gay pride events are banned and attacked time and time again," he added, noting incidents in Warsaw, Prague and Riga.

Malmstrom has participated at several gay pride events over the years and witnessed attacks by homophobic groups on parades, Nylund noted while Mavendra Singh Gohil made headlines in 2006 when he came out as a homosexual.

The Europride events have been merged with Stockholm Pride, and "relies to a large extent on volunteers," Nylund said, adding that visitors were expected from Sweden and its Nordic and eastern European neighbors as well as from the US.

Turnover was estimated at 12 million kronor (1.26 million euros, $2 million), and organizers have in recent years noticed "greater interest" from sponsors that include travel groups and hotels, he added.

A designated area known as Pride Park constitutes one of the two main hubs during Europride, and will offer music, food and entertainment but visitors require a ticket to enter the zone.

Organizers hope visitors will also visit the other hub at Stockholm Culture House in downtown Stockholm where seminars, theater shows and debates were part of the menu.

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