For the first time in Olympic history gay and lesbian athletes will have their own “Pride House”, where they will be able to relax, watch events and meet friends, reports the Vancouver Sun.

On Friday, a group called GayWhistler announced it will set up a special club house in partnership with the Pan Pacific Whistler Village hotel ahead of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Canada.

The Pride House will be a free facility which will be open to gay athletes, their families, friends and fans. It will offer a lounge, television screens and meeting areas.

“It is really important to have a safe space for out athletes, coaches, fans and allies to come and hang out, share their stories, trade pins and have fun”, said Dean Nelson, one of the organisers.

“For a traditionally conservative festival like the Olympic Games, I think this is significant”, said Kevin Wamsley, an Olympic historian at the University of Western Ontario.

“The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has been skirting around the issue of sexuality since it began,” he added, noting that the Olympic Games have historically not offered a friendly environment for LGBT athletes.

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