After a Russian court rejected efforts to set up a Pride House in Sochi, a building dedicated to supporting gay athletes, a coalition of LGBT sports groups is campaigning national organizing committees to host Pride House events at their hospitality houses. This would create a roving Pride House of sorts for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Lou Englefield, coordinator for Pride House International, said her group was in discussion with several national Olympic committees about hosting such events. At the Olympics, venues such as USA House, Austria House, Canada House, etc. hold events for athletes, officials and fans.
The U.S. Olympic Committee hosted a 100-day countdown event in Times Square on Tuesday. Patrick Sandusky, the USOC’s chief communications officer, said the USOC doesn’t host “themed nights for specific groups at USA House but all are certainly welcome.”
“It’s about having a celebration, not a demonstration,” Englefield told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. There could be exhibitions and films on LGBT athletes, and panel discussions on issues concerning inclusion and diversity in sport.
Given the Russian law that bans gay “propaganda” which might influence minors, Englefield said the events could be for those 18 and over.
There have been Pride Houses at the 2010 Vancouver Games and the 2012 London Games and plans are underway for Rio de Janiero in 2016.
In 2010, New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup dropped by the first Olympic Pride House to learn more about the LGBT sports movement. As he walked through an exhibit featuring gay college athletes, the moment changed his life. It inspired him to publicly come out.
“It was a huge determining factor to let me share my story,” Skjellerup told USA TODAY Sports.