Ministers and football players, including ex-Fener star van Hooijdonk celebrate Amsterdam's Gay Pride
AMSTERDAM - Agence France-Presse
Participants waving a gay pride flag and displaying a placard showing an emblem of the Turkish flag, stand on a barge during the annual Gay Canal Parade in Amsterdam August 3. REUTERS photoTens of thousands of pink-clad partygoers feted Gay Pride along Amsterdam's canals on Aug. 3, with professional footballers and ministers joining in the massive techno-beat chorus of support for gay rights.
Many at this year's celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights took aim at the anti-gay stance of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who visited Amsterdam earlier this year.
The Dutch football federation KNVB has a boat taking part in the day's high point, a colourful pageant along the city's historic canals, for the first time.
"The football world is a macho world where it is easy to make jokes, especially about gays," former Dutch international football player Pierre van Hooijdonk told AFP.
"I never came across any gays in my team and I don't know any either, but we are here today to say OK, if you are (gay) we'll support you, we won't discriminate," he said.
"It goes slowly but we have to start at some point, right?" Dutch national team coach Louis van Gaal as well as former internationals Ronald de Boer and Patrick Kluivert also joined in the day's festivities, the climax to a week of celebrations in the famously gay-friendly city.
"Everybody has the right to do as he likes, if you like football and are homo, it doesn't have to be a problem," Dutch former league player Regillio Vrede told AFP.
"We want to show that we have respect for the people," he said, pointing to the pink arm-band on his black T-shirt emblazoned with 'Respect'.
Families, including children and the elderly, flocked to watch the colourful flotilla parade down the canals.
"This is my first time, but you have to do it once in your life," Wil, a 70-year-old Dutch woman, told AFP.
'Rainbow flotilla' with boats representing migrants, police and army
"It's a proper party and at the same time it's important to show that everyone has the same rights," she said, blowing kisses to a boatload of men in leather mini-shorts.
Boats representing the police ('the pink in the blue'), the army and even the finance ministry were among the 80-strong flotilla.
The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage, in 2001, and Amsterdam is home to the world's oldest existing gay rights group, the COC, which had its own rainbow-flag waving boat.
Partygoers sported a range of erotic or flamboyant outfits, from studded black leather to over-the-top drag outfits and enormous wigs.
Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert joined in the sun-dappled parade, along with eurogroup chief and Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
"It's good that you can see today how we want to be with gay rights," national news agency ANP quoted Dijsselbloem as saying.
Dijssebloem vaunted the fact that everyone on his Labour party boat wore a T-shirt emblazoned with "Gay Pride for Russia".
"Things are going in the wrong direction there with gay rights," Dijsselbloem said. Russia last month banned four Dutch nationals from entering the country for three years after accusing them under a controversial new law that forbids the spreading of "gay propoganda" to minors.
The four had been accused by police in the northern Murmansk region of disseminating gay propaganda while making a documentary about gays in Russia and taking part in a human rights forum.
Putin in June signed the "gay propaganda" bill into law, a move that was strongly criticised by Western governments and rights organisations that said it would contribute to rising homophobia and arbitrary persecution of gays.
Thousands protested against Putin when he visited the Netherlands in April, including by brandishing signs reading: "Putin go homo".