Pride parade smashes attendance records

Organisers of this year's Pride Parade in Stockholm say that more people than ever watched the revellers march, dance and party through Stockholm on Saturday.

In glorious sunshine, almost 35,000 participants paraded through the city – and with 350,000 members of the public lining the streets, the event became the party of the year.

Some 71 floats were signed up for the parade and organisers had anticipated up to 15,000 participants. Even that would have been a record, but with more than double that number turning out the parade stretched for two kilometres – from Humlegården, past Sergels torg, Kungsträdgården, the palace, Slussen and up through Söder to the Pride area at Tantolunden.

Cheers and applause greeted the revellers from the start point in Östermalm as they set off just after 3pm, and the interest from the public was so great that police had to ask the crowd to move back so the parade could pass.

First out of the blocks was a group of women – and a few men – on motorcycles decorated with rainbow flags and feather boas.

They were followed by the first walking paraders, with the Stockholm Pride organisers at the front waving flags.

Also near the front of the parade was a kilt-bedecked Tony Irving, the Brit who found fame in Sweden as the tough judge in Let’s Dance on TV4, along with one of the programme’s participants, Kishti Tomita.

To the public’s great amusement, the pair danced their way through the city together.

“I stayed at home specially this year just to be able to be in the parade,” yelled Kishti Tomita over the blaring music.

“I’m doing it to show that it is important that everyone should be able to love and live as they want.”

Tony Irving, who in previous years has been the chairman of the festival, said he thinks that Pride is most important for those who travelled into the city from smaller towns in the country.

“Once a year they get the chance to belong to a big group. This is a festival to show who you are and to be proud of it,” he said.

As usual, for a number of participants blending in with the rest of the crowd was the last thing on their minds. One of those was Marco Lehtojohi, dressed as an angel with enormous white wings and sitting on his Arab steed, Luxor, with silver glitter on his white coat and hooves.

Less spectacular were the parade’s police officers who turned out in force this year, with participants from France, Holland, the UK and Norway.

“The most important thing for us is to show the diversity in the police. We’re not planning to put on a show,” said Norwegian officer Håvard Aalmo, who was dressed in his summer uniform.

By the time the parade reached the palace and Slussen, the crowds were swelling.

“It was unbelievable. There were people everywhere,” said Stockholm police spokesman Björn Engström.

Police estimated that a crowd of 350,000 watched the parade pass through the city. It reached Tantolunden without any reported disturbances.

Photo on previous page: Mattias O/ Stockholm Pride