Amsterdam's Pride canal parade draws huge crowds on return after two years

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By Esther Verkaik

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of partygoers flocked to Amsterdam on Saturday for the return of the city's Pride canal parade after two years of cancellations due to pandemic-related restrictions.

"I missed it, and I think everybody missed it," said Chas, 42, as she watched the rainbow flotilla complete with celebrants dancing in feathers, glitter and leather pass under a bridge.

The 25th edition of the parade caps a week of Pride events in the city as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities celebrated their identity and demonstrated for their rights.

"Originally this was gay pride, but today you see hundreds of thousands of people regardless of whether they're gay or straight or whatever, and that is so fantastic," said reveller Jonas van der Kaaij Olsen, 53, draped in a rainbow flag.

This year the theme was "My Gender, My Pride" seeking to focus attention to gender identity as organisers said transgender emancipation has lagged behind that of other groups.

The Pride festival said its focus is gradually changing from celebrating people's right to love whomever they want to their right to be whoever they are.

In a poll by broadcaster EenVandaag, 73% of respondents who identified as LBGT supported holding the Pride event, while nearly half think it should be less commercial and more focused on rights issues.

A spokesperson for city health authorities said they are not issuing any special advisory to festival-goers about monkeypox, a virus that causes painful blistering and has been spreading predominantly among men that have sex with men.

However information is being offered about the disease, which is transmitted mostly by skin-on-skin contact, at several popup locations in the city.

Fewer than a thousand cases have been registered in the Netherlands where vaccinations among vulnerable groups began last month.

(Reporting by Esther Verkaik; Writing by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mike Harrison)