With the Olympic Games there are always the firsts. 1900 saw women compete for the first time. 1924 saw the first Winter Olympics. 1960 saw electronic computers used for the first time. And 2010 is no exception, with the Vancouver Winter Olympics the first year with Pride Houses – venues in Vancouver and Whistler open to gay and lesbian athletes, coaches, family, friends and their allies.
The genesis for Pride House actually began when the dates for the 2010 WinterPRIDE (Whistler’s Gay Ski Week) coincided with the Olympics. Working with its various partners including VANOC, the 2010 WinterPRIDE was eventually moved to the transition period between the Olympics and the Paralympics games.
(With WinterPRIDE sandwiched between the two Olympics, WinterPRIDE CEO Dean Nelson has now declared WinterPRIDE 2010 as the official, unofficial after-party of the Olympics. “There will not be a time like this again with the animation, excitement, and energy in the afterglow of the Olympics,” said Nelson. Visit http://www.gaywhistler.com for more information on WinterPRIDE 2010).
Once the new dates for WinterPRIDE were secured, the team then began the work of creating a pride pavilion during the Olympic Games themselves. A year later, the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre was chosen as the Whistler site.
Vancouver Pride House was a bit of a different story. To create a second pavilion in Vancouver to the same degree as Whistler would have taken an extraordinary amount of cash, something the organizing team simply did not have. Taking a slightly different approach, the team started to look at established venues.
With Vancouver’s established gay scene the organizers focused their attention on finding the right space and organization that wanted to be associated with Pride House. For organizers, Qmunity became the logical choice given its expertise and organisational strengths to host the Vancouver Pride House and, with its size, location and past community support for the LGBT community, Score on Davie was chosen as the Vancouver Pride House Celebration venue.
While Pride House in Whistler will be a celebration venue with a hip lounge complete with cocktail bar and television monitors to watch the Olympics, according to Qmunity’s Executive Director Jennifer Breakspear, Vancouver’s Pride House will strike a slightly different tone.
“At Qmunity, visitors to Pride House will be welcomed by Pride House ambassadors who will be walking compendiums of information about all that is queer in Vancouver,” said Breakspear. “We envision Vancouver Pride House as being a place to meet up, to connect with friends, to get information and resources, to trade Olympic pins, to buy Pride House shirts and pins and generally as a welcome centre. The workshops that are being planned include discussions about homophobia in sport and increasing visibility of LGTB athletes.”
Of course, like any Olympic House, they are primarily designed as a gathering place for like-minded athletes attending the event; a place to relax and let off some steam after competition. And while Nelson tells us that communication with athletes leading up to the games is not encouraged to ensure they focus on their sport, he does say that the Canadian Olympic Committee and other sporting organizations will be letting their members know that the Whistler and Vancouver Pride Houses exist.
Both Nelson and Breakspear have high hopes of actually getting Olympic athletes into the venues, but Nelson says regardless of who visits the Pride Houses, the primary goal here is to create a dialogue on homophobia within sports. “By having various news outlets talking about and sharing with their readers, listeners, and viewers, the topic of homophobia is being addressed, debated and discussed,” said Nelson. “We do anticipate that we will have some athletes like Brendan Burke, student manager of the Miami University Hockey team in Ohio and son of Toronto Maple Leaf’s general manager Brian Burke, to share his story in coming out and how debilitating suppressing his sexuality was to his hockey career.”
While the athletes are definitely a focus for both the Whistler and Vancouver Pride Houses, Nelson and Breakspear are quick to point out that Pride House is open to anyone – athletes, visitors and residents alike (of course with some restrictions where alcohol is served). While Nelson tells us Pride House Whistler is open to anyone he does warn that it is geared as a more adult environment. Pride House Vancouver at Qmunity, however, will be open to absolutely anyone that wants to visit. Score on Davie does have restrictions due to its liquor license and those visiting the Score Celebration venue must be 19 years or older.
Vancouver Pride House will be open February 12-28 and again March 12-21 (exact times are still to be confirmed) at Qmunity located at 1170 Bute Street.
Vancouver Pride House Celebration Venue, open February 12-28 and again March 12-21 during its regular business hours, is located at Score on Davie at 1262 Davie Street.
Whistler Pride House will open February 8th through March 21st from 10am to 10pm daily (subject to change) and is located at the centre of Whistler Village at the award winning boutique hotel of Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre.
Visit http://www.pridehouse.ca for more information.