Rainbow hues in Berlin ahead of gay parade

Berlin: Discounted flight tickets, special shopping vouchers, rebates in hotels, free drinks and parties -- the stage is set to welcome more than half a million people for Germany`s Gay Pride Parade on Saturday.

Celebrated as Christopher Street Day (CSD), it is an annual memorial day of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders to celebrate and demonstrate their rights and against discrimination and exclusion.

More than half a million people from across the globe are expected to join the CSD parade, a political demonstration with dance beats, colourful costumes and richly decorated parade wagons.

Coinciding with the women`s football World Cup starting June 26 here, the organisers have selected "sport" as the theme for this year`s parade while the motto is "Fairplay for diversity".

The parade will start at 12.30 p.m. local time and after winding its way through 11 streets, will end around 4 p.m. at the historic Brandenburg Gate in the heart of the city. There will be a song and dance festival past midnight at the site.

"The parade will see diverse crowds -- men and women, gay and straight, young and old, from Berlin and all over the world. All demanding fair play for diversity," Lara Lopez-Cordon, press officer for the CSD, told IANS.

She said the term "fairplay" is often disregarded, not just in sport, also in everyday life especially when fairplay is understood to mean accepting sexual diversity and not excluding certain groups or individuals.

Germany is touted as a heaven for queers with rainbow flags flying proudly in Berlin, which is helmed by Germany`s first openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit. The city also has a gay museum for people to learn about the community`s history.

"Our mayor, before assuming office in 2001, had come out openly that he is gay and had said `I am gay`, and that is good the way it is. The city is open to queers and I have been attending CSD from last few years and it`s nice," said Diana Gatz, a college student.

The CSD celebrations in Berlin start at least a week before with Gay-Lesbian Street Fair.

People from the queer community turn up in large numbers in the Schoneberg area in south Berlin -- the hub of the gay community -- and party on the streets.

"It was fun to attend the street festival last week. People from the queer community were drinking, dancing and having fun. I have heard a lot of the CSD Berlin and am looking forward to attend it," said Olimi Ologunagba, a Nigerian journalist here.

To attract a large number of people, German airline Lufthansa is offering special prices to all attendees of CSD. Besides, Air France and budget airlines like Germanwings are offering discounted airfares for people interested in attending the Gay Pride parade.

To make the stay of people attending the parade comfortable, special offers are being made for apartments and hotels in Berlin.

Participants can also buy a Berlin Pride Card - a discount card that gives visitors extra benefits like discounts on eatables, markets and even free drinks.

The CSD is held in memory of the first big uprising of LGBT, an acronym for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender, people against police assaults that took place in New York`s Christopher Street in Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969. Since then, every year on the last weekend of June, CSD is celebrated across the world.


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