Thanks to Canada, LGBTQ athletes, fans and allies have a place to congregate and call their own in the Olympic Village in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
That’s because the Canada Olympic House is doubling up as Pride House for the duration of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The move enhances Canada’s status as the foremost supporter of Pride solidarity at international sporting events. Indeed it was in Canada that the Pride House movement took root, with the first versions set up in Vancouver and Whistler during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
WATCH: Welcome to Canada’s Olympic House in Pyeongchang
According to the website of the LGBTQ coalition Pride House International, the Pride House concept is modeled after the typical Olympic hospitality house. The idea is to give LGBTQ people a safe space to watch the competitions, learn about homophobia in sport and help bridge the gap between mainstream sports and the LGBTQ world.
The largest Pride House to date was hosted in Toronto during the 2015 Pan Am Games. Vancouver then hosted its second Pride House soon after, during the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
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The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi presented a stern challenge in the form of Russian authorities’ opposition to the organizing of a Pride House. However, Russia’s hostility towards LGBTQ activism inadvertently fueled the movement further, by inspiring the creation of the Pride House International coalition.
Soon after the 2014 Games, Canadian figure skater Eric Radford came out as gay. Radford is one of 14 openly gay athletes competing in Pyeongchang this year, and shared this selfie of himself and his fiancee at Pride House:
While the South Korean government isn’t as openly hostile to gays as Russia, homosexuality remains a taboo topic there. The country’s president Moon Jae-in said he opposed homosexuality during his election campaign, while LGBTQ rights organizations weren’t allowed to legally register as charities in South Korea until last year.
However, unlike in Sochi, authorities in Pyeongchang did not actively hinder the creation of a Pride House, prompting Canada to step up.
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In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said it was happy to host Pride House to showcase its commitment to diversity and inclusion in the international sports landscape.
“Inclusion is the very foundation of what makes the heart of Team Canada,” COC CEO and secretary general Chris Overholt said. “By hosting Pride House in our Canada Olympic House, we are extending our warmest welcome to all from every corner of the world to celebrate ‘Be Olympic’.
“Team Canada is proud to embrace its diversity at Canada House, which includes a sign at the front door, welcoming all and knows that as a team, we are stronger when we celebrate our differences.”
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