Wednesday, 5 August 2015

City Pride : Stockholm

Following a highly successful Stockholm Pride last weekend the Eurogames begin today. The Eurogames are the longest running international lgbt sport festival in Europe, having been founded in 1992. It gives me a good reason to feature Stockholm in my “City Pride” series. Here are some locations in the city that feature in Sweden’s lgbt heritage.
1) Kungsträdgården – We’ll start with the Eurogames, at the venue where the games begin. The grand opening ceremony is being held tonight here at the Kungsträdgården after an afternoon of fun sporting activities for visitors. The ceremony itself will include the customary entrance of the teams, not only from across Europe but from as far afield as Australia as well.

2) Olympic Stadium – Stockholm has actually hosted the Olympic Games twice. The first was in 1912 as host of the summer games, and the second was in 1956 for the Melbourne games. Australia has strict quarantine rules on horses so couldn’t host the equestrian events. So Stockholm was chosen as an alternate venue. There was even an opening ceremony and Olympic cauldron. This stadium was built for the 1912 Olympics and hosted several events, including gymnastics. This was the year that gymnastic pioneer and coach Niels Bukh finally got to the Olympics after being dropped from the Danish team in 1908 (which would have made him the first lgbt Olympian). He was selected as a team coach for the Stockholm 1912 games and they came away with the silver medal (in the now discontinued Swedish System event).

3) Skeppargaten – This was the final home of the distinguished Swedish writer and leading figure of the Swedish socialist movement, Karin Boye (1900-1941). She was born in Gothenburg and the family moved to Stockholm when Karin was young. After meeting her life partner Margot Hanel in Berlin the couple moved into this house. In 1941 they both committed suicide, Margot shortly after Karin.

4) Parliament building – Home of the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag. It has seen 19 elected lgbt members – 14 men and 5 women. After the UK the Swedish parliament has the most lgbt MP sitting at the present time, with 12 (including a government minister). The first lgbt MP was Kent Carlsson in 1991 who wasn’t openly gay at the time. The first openly lgbt MP in Sweden was Tasso Stafilidis, a member of the Left Party who was elected in 1998.

5) The Kronor Palace – the birthplace of Queen Kristina of Sweden in 1626. Her father treated her as his male heir, giving her an education more suited to a boy. He was killed in battle when Kristina was 6 and she succeeded to the throne. After reigning well and wisely for 22 years she abdicated in 1654 and travelled around Europe. She had a relationship with a courtier called Ebba Sparre, and the enigmatic nature of their sexuality still lingers over 400 years later. A famous film of Kristina’s life was made in 1933, starring Greta Garbo (below) in the title role.

6) Lutheran Cathedral – in 2009 the Lutheran Church of Sweden appointed the world’s first openly lesbian bishop as Bishop of Stockholm, Eva Brunne (b.1954). She was ordained in 1978 and has served in the Stockholm diocese since 1980. While serving as Dean of Huddinge and Botkyrka Eva registered her partnership with a fellow Lutheran minister, Gunilla Linden, with the church’s blessing. Eva’s consecration as bishop in the cathedral was attended by the King and Queen of Sweden.

7) The Swedish Academy - This is the home of the organisation which is responsible for choosing the winner of the annual Nobel Prize for Literature. Over the decades they have chosen such lgbt authors as Thomas Mann (in 1929), Patrick White (in 1973) and Selma Lagerlöf (in 1909, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature). The Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, whose reign saw Sweden’s golden age of cultural achievements. Gustav had many male “favourites” as court and gave them high positions at court. Lgbt members of the Swedish Academy include the above-mentioned Selma Lagerlöf (from 1914-1940), historian Wilhelm Erik Svedelius (from1864-1889), author Viktor Rydberg (from 1877-1895), and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld (from 1954-61).

8) Cirkus – This is the venue for Sweden’s annual national song contest, the Melodifestivalen. The winning song goes on to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest. It hasn’t done badly – 6 winners in total, including this year’s winner, which means the Eurovision Song Contest returns to Sweden in 2016. Unfortunately 1992 wasn’t a good year. Gay singer Christer Björkmann won the Melodifestivalen that year and went to the Eurovision finals – he came second from last. Undaunted, Christer entered the Melodifestivalen again in 1999 – and came last. Not to let these set-backs get him down, he went on to become the festival’s supervisor, and returned to Eurovision in 2013 as the producer of the finals held in Malmo.

9) Södra Maternity Hospital – The first and biggest movie megastar to come from Stockholm was Greta Garbo (1905-1990). There are many places in the city which commemorate her, including several of her homes, but here, at Stockholm’s maternity hospital, Great was born. Her starring role in the film biography of Queen Kristina helped to form her iconic status that lasted long after she retired from public life in 1991. The speculations on her bisexuality have helped to ensure that Greta Garbo remains one of the world’s most enigmatic stars.

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