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Pride House ‘an unprecedented success’: report

Organizers offer advice to future Olympic hosts

The first-ever Olympic and Paralympic Pride House was “an unprecedented success” and a “catalyst for change,” a report on the landmark project has concluded.

Organizers are now sharing advice across the world to create similar spaces at major games as far ahead as 2016.

More than 20,000 people visited the three Olympic Pride House venues: the pavilions in Whistler and Vancouver (5,000 and 2,000 visitors respectively) and the official celebration bar, Score (15,000).

Hundreds more participated in outreach events, according to the 2010 Pride House Legacy Report, which was officially unveiled today.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests Pride House was the Winter Olympics’ third-most-reported story, with more than 100 million media references, the report states.

Dean Nelson, Pride House founder and executive producer, believes the project achieved its main goals of providing welcoming spaces for the gay community and its allies, creating discussions about homophobia, and encouraging safer environments for queer athletes.

He told Xtra a key step was a meeting with the Canadian Olympic Committee and the committee’s development of policies to create inclusive sporting environments.

The legacy report offers suggestions for future projects, such as revenue generation, entertainment, venue choice, community contact, multilingual resources and gay tourism.

Advice is being shared with organizers of projects for London (2012 Summer Olympics), Russia (2014 Winter Olympics), Toronto (2015 PanAm Games) and Brazil (2016 Summer Olympics).

“There’s definitely longevity to this,” Nelson says.

“We’re having a lot of discussion with our allies in the UK to create something for London,” he continues.

“Being gay in Russia is not so comfortable, so we’re working with the team there to determine what spaces will be available, and if the Pride House could be hosted by a visiting house, such as Canada.”

The “huge mix” of visitors at the Vancouver and Whistler sites included spectators, staff, police and celebrities. Nelson adds that more contact with queer athletes at the Pride House venues “would be the ideal” but acknowledges their limited free time.

He is pleased about the widespread media coverage of Pride House, as well as its personal impacts, such as New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup’s decision to come out after the Games.

Nelson feels a shift is happening in the fight against homophobia in sport.

“We are seeing some dramatic changes in the sporting world,” he says. “Do we have a long way to go? Definitely. It’s going to take many years, but progress is happening, which is very exciting.”