8 Mar 2009

300,000 turn out for Sydney's Mardi Gras

9:48 pm on 8 March 2009

About 300,000 of people lined the streets of central Sydney on Saturday night to celebrate the annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras.

It is the 31st time the parade has been held, with organisers saying this year's event had 9500 people on 135 floats.

As tradition dictates, about 200 Dykes on Bikes roared down Oxford Street in a prelude to the main show.

The chief of parade, Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham, took centre stage on the first float, dressed in green shorts and gold singlet, his Beijing gold medal hanging around his neck. Surrounding him were male dancers, dressed in Speedo swimsuits and carrying scorecards.

The parade began at Hyde Park in Sydney's CBD, with floats slowly winding their way down Oxford and Flinders streets to Moore Park.

The 31st Mardi Gras had a theme of Nations United, meant as a tribute to homosexuals around the world who may not enjoy the same freedoms as Australia. The theme harked back to Mardi Gras' origins as a protest for gay rights.

Police say despite making 28 arrests, the crowds at the Mardi Gras were generally well behaved.