The starring role of the shimmering canal network in Amsterdam's history was the ideal starting point for this year's Amsterdam Gay Pride theme: 'Reflect'. Culminating in the party weekend of 2-4 August, this year's Amsterdam Gay Pride will be bigger than ever. But the event and its significance have grown in more ways than just in terms of its scale.Irene Hemelaar, executive director of ProGay, the association that organises Amsterdam Gay Pride, notes that 'this year's Amsterdam Gay Pride is something of a meditation, albeit it a jubilant one: 2013 is a big year for Amsterdam; it is the year that we celebrate 400 years of the canals that have brought the city such prosperity, and opened it up to the world as a place for people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and walks of life to come together. We will take the opportunity to look back on how far the LGBT community has come during this remarkable period. And we will shine like never before!' A history to cherish It goes without saying that Amsterdam has a rich gay tradition. The first gay bar opened here in 1927 (Café 't Mandje, still open today at Zeedijk 63) and the planet's first gay marriages happened in Amsterdam's City Hall in 2001. The COC Netherlands has been advocating the rights of lesbian women, gay men, bisexuals and transgenders since 1946, and is one of the few LGBT organizations that enjoys special consultative status within the United Nations. A future to secure Things keep moving, and welcome additions to gay life in Amsterdam include new bars, such as the lesbian-run Café Bordó in the Nieuwe Nieuwstraat. On a wider level, Dutch Minister for gender and LGBT emancipation, Jet Bussemaker, points to the Netherlands' hosting of a major international conference on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in May: ' The Netherlands has a progressive character, but even today, lesbian women, gay men, bisexuals and transgenders are experiencing discrimination, violence and unequal rights,' she says. Although Bussemaker points out that 'individuals, businesses and institutions have a responsibility to help improve the situation,' she believes that Government also has a part to play, and is looking forward to participating in the Amsterdam Gay Pride 2013 festivities: 'This year there will again be an official cabinet boat in the Canal Parade. It has a very special theme, but that's all I'm allowed to say for now!' FAST FIGURES: AMSTERDAM GAY PRIDE IN NUMBERS 350,000 visitors to the Canal Pride parade annually - 45,000 visitors during 4 days of street parties - 98 outdoor bars - 200,000 beers - 4 football pitches of dance floor - 10 outdoor stages - 3,000,000 beats - 120 different events in 9 days.