The Pride House organisation is determined to see a host of LGBT affirming venues and events at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, despite Russia’s gay propaganda law.
Pride House International (PHI) said on Tuesday that it intends 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”.
The first Pride House was launched during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada, and was a space for gay visitors, athletes and coaches to relax, take parts in events and meet friends. A Pride House was also successfully hosted during the London Games.
The Russian authorities, however, have refused to allow the registration of a non-governmental organisation that planed to host a “Pride House” in Sochi during the Games.
In February 2012, a Russian court upheld the ban, stating that a Pride House would “contradict the foundations of public morality and government policy in the area of protection of the family, motherhood, and childhood”.
A call by the PHI coalition of LGBT sports and human rights organisations for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to demonstrate its assurances of safety for gay and lesbian athletes by hosting a Pride House have so far been ignored.
Despite this, PHI said that it 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 PHI, 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.”
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.”
PHI is seeking funding from corporate and non-profit entities to allow for this complex project to be implemented. Englefield also called on supporters to contact their National Olympic Committees to urge them to host Pride House events in Sochi.