PHI seeks partners for Pride House events in Sochi

Jen WattsNews

International coalition asks supporters to call on their National Olympic Committees to host events in Sochi

Pride House International today launched its efforts to partner with national houses at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. The intent is to overcome the legal obstacles from Russian authorities to the creation of a Pride House at the Games, and to create a network of venues allowing for the promotion of the Olympic principle of sport for all. To ensure that this is possible, PHI is calling on supporters to contact their National Olympic Committees asking them to host Pride House events.

Dean Nelson, the founder of the 2010 Vancouver and Whistler Pride Houses, explained the principle of the venue.

“We imagined a Pride House that would dare to make public the awareness of homophobia and transphobia in sport. It would be a safe venue for athletes, support staff and spectators to participate at the Olympics with authentic connections that celebrated our diversity through sports and friendships. The pavilion celebrated LGBT arts, culture and sports while acknowledging the discrimination and hostile environments gays and lesbians face today. After the success at the 2010 Winter Olympics, we saw Pride Houses activated at the UEFA Euro Football Championship and the London Olympics in 2012, and plans are underway for Pride Houses at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2015 Pan Am Games, and the 2016 Summer Olympics.”

Missing from the list are the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games. Attempts by a Russian NGO to create a Pride House for Sochi were rejected by Russian authorities. Meanwhile, the call by the Pride House International coalition of LGBT sport and human rights organizations for the International Olympic Committee to demonstrate that its assurances of safety for gay and lesbian athletes were credible by hosting a Pride House under their aegis have so far not been heeded. Pride House International still hopes to see a safe and welcoming place for LGBT people in Sochi, and are now working with national houses to offer a schedule of Pride House events throughout the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Lou Englefield, coordinator for Pride House International, explained the project: “Various National Olympic Committees traditionally create a venue to promote their national teams and offer hospitality for officials, athletes, and fans. We are in discussions with a few such national houses for them to offer one or more days or evenings of programming in line with the tradition of past Pride Houses.” Such content includes exhibitions on LGBT athletes, films on LGBT sport, talks and panel discussions on issues concerning inclusion and diversity in sport, and so on.

Keph Senett, part of the PHI leadership group, explained that the intent was not to protest Russian anti-gay laws: “We’re not planning a demonstration, and the content of Pride House is not political, unless you consider that calls for sport open to all, for freedom from discrimination in sport, for freedom of expression and assembly are political. Since these values are found in the Olympic Charter and the governing documents of the International Paralympic Committee, we think that a place where they are honoured and respected should be very welcome at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Pride House International is seeking funding from corporate and non-profit entities to allow for this complex project to be implemented. Englefield explained: “We think the greatest impact for Pride House events in Sochi is ensured by multiplying a presence in national houses. Our goal is for there to be a Pride House event somewhere in Sochi every day of the Games. There are significant logistics challenges, including shipment and transfer of materials, organizing panels and talks and film screenings, and so on. We are hopeful in the outcome of our current discussions with national houses, and need to be able to respond to these generous offers of hosting.”

Englefield also called on supporters to contact their National Olympic Committees to urge them to host Pride House events in Sochi.

>>Nationalsport bodies and potential funders should contact Lou Englefield at >

>>Write to your own National Olympic Committee with this message: “Please host a Pride House event in Sochi!” Find contact information for your NOC here.