Amidst the calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which get underway in Sochi on Feb 7, a Vancouver pub wants to send a different message to Russia.
The Fountainhead Pub's To Russia with Love campaign, which will run Feb 1 to 28, aims to raise money and spread awareness through messages of love and support to Olympic athletes, the gay community and their supporters.
“It’s a small way of us supporting the LGBT community in Russia from Canadian soil,” Fountainhead manager Drew Watling says.
The pub will donate $1 from each sale of daily menu specials and a signature cocktail to All Out, a global organization that lobbies for human rights. Donations will also be generated through the sale of love notes, which will be pinned to a giant wall-mounted heart displayed in the pub and later sent to LGBT community representatives in Russia.
“There is a lot of boycotting going on. There is a lot of ‘Say no to Sochi’ [and] ‘Say no to the Olympics,’” Watling says. “These athletes train their entire lives . . . we wanted to do something a lot more on the positive side."
Despite the show of support, Watling says the bar is still boycotting all Russian products and the campaign is in no way backing Russia’s anti-gay stance.
Mitchell Fawcett, a public relations and social media expert, collaborated with Watling to create the campaign.
“Right around the time that we participated in the [vodka] boycott, just up the street they were painting the rainbow crosswalks in the Village. The contrast to what was going on in Russia at the time was so stark, we thought that anything we could do from Canada to Russia was important to us,” Fawcett says.
“I don’t agree with boycotting the Olympics altogether; not only because the athletes have worked their whole lives for that moment, but also because the world is watching now,” he says.
The publicity regarding discrimination against gay people in Russia has shone a necessary spotlight on changes that must be made regarding places that tolerate homophobia, Fawcett adds. “This is our chance to make a difference, raise awareness and show people exactly what's happening there. There couldn’t have been a better time to talk about this."
The Fountainhead has been designated an official Remote Pride House by the Pride House International organization. Remote Pride Houses have been established globally in support of gay space and rights during the Sochi Games.
For more information on the campaign, visit thefountainheadpub.com.