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Looking back at EuroPride: Amsterdam, Gay Capital of Europe?!

by Lucien Spee in Columns & Opinions , 15 september 2016

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Proud as a peacock I look back at two wonderful weeks. All events were successful and went down without incidents. In spite of some scattered showers, the city radiated freedom, love, and solidarity.

When we started working on this challenge at the end of 2013, many wondered whether or not we were aiming too high for such a small city. According to them, we were no longer a Gay Capital and should settle for the description Gay Destination.

Fortunately, the global emancipation of GLBTs has gained ground, and made the choice of holiday destinations wider. From a tourist perspective, I can see their point, but the fact that EuroPride draws more tourists - which is good for the local economy - was never a motive for wanting to organize it.

We were just eager to show that we can still serve as an example to others, which we did. Small and large Pride organizations from all over the world came to our capital and returned home inspired and hopeful.

The Pride’s success started on the very first day with a sunny Pink Saturday in the Vondelpark, a park that has been a symbol of individual freedom and love since the hippy era.

And that was exactly what Pink Saturday 2016 radiated. People got married for free en masse, visitors received free kisses and hugs, and I had the best day of my life getting married to my beloved Victor.


Afterwards, the Pride Walk was attended by approximately 10,000 participants walking across town to Dam Square, attracting much attention. They walked for our brothers and sisters in countries where they can only dream of the freedom we enjoy in the Netherlands. After twenty-two years, Pink Saturday came back to the city where it all started, and was closed with an exuberant celebration and smashing fireworks.

The Freedom Concert that also took place on Dam Square the next day was truly spectacular. Both national and international artists were accompanied by a large orchestra, shooting the stars of freedom into heaven. The two-hour concert was aired by Dutch public broadcaster AVROTROS in a compilation at first, followed by the entire concert a week later. It was great promotion for Amsterdam as the city of individual freedom and diversity.

From the first weekend on, the pink diary was filled to the brim with cultural, sports, religious, and intellectual activities. By and for young and old, and for each letter in our community activities were organized. Without short-selling the other activities, I want to mention the success of the Shakespeare Club by COC Netherlands in the Amsterdam Museum, the amazing choir festival in the concert hall, as well as the new setup of the Senior Pride concert, perhaps fit to become a yearly event from now on.

The annual street parties and boat parade during the final weekend again were mind-blowing. Despite the attacks in surrounding countries and the Orlando shooting, fear did not spoil things, and the record number of visitors in 2015 was matched. This year for EuroPride, parties were also allowed to be organized on Spuistraat and the City Hall Square. Because of their success, they certainly have earned their right to be also organized in coming years.

Unfortunately it was all over on Sunday, August 7, and we figuratively passed the Pride flame on to the organization of WorldPride 2017 in Madrid, one of the world’s largest Prides. Its director praised Amsterdam for its solidarity and the way the city completely embraced the Pride. He called it unique and a big example to the rest of the world - something we should be proud of and take care of.

That the way we celebrate Pride is not a matter-of-course is clear. I sincerely hope that we can continue to function as a role model in the future with our festival. Amsterdam as the city of freedom and diversity, and the city where you can be who you want to be and love who you want. Amsterdam as Gay Capital of Europe.

photos: Jeroen Ploeger  

This year, we were hosting EuroPride in Amsterdam. A special European version of the Amsterdam Gay Pride that lasted two weeks and started with Pink Saturday. Visit for more information or Like us on Facebook prideamsterdam.

Lucien Spee is managing director of the Foundation Amterdam Pride



In the New Issue of Gay News, 328, December 2018

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