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Why the Olympic Pride House is standing tall for gay sport

Whether you think the Olympics are for you or not, LGBT sports and human rights come together at London 2012’s Pride House
London Broncos RSL match against Salford City Reds for LGBT Olympics event Pride House.

Tomorrow (9 August), partners in London’s Olympic Pride House and other organisations will be joining in a protest against the homophobic ban by Russian authorities on a Pride House at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Sochi Exhibition in London is Russia’s promotional push for the winter games which will be held in the city of the same name on the Black Sea coast.

The judge who endorsed the ban on an LGBT Pride House in Sochi for the games said that it would damage Russian morality and even endanger Russia’s future as a viable country.

So why was it important for us to create a Pride House in London, and why, beyond our opposition to the homophobic nature of the ban, do we want to see a Pride House in Sochi?

The International Olympic Committee has chosen to organise sport and the Olympics on the basis of nations. We have National Olympic Committees and national teams parading into the stadium behind their national flags. And many nations host a national ‘house’ at the Olympics, a place to meet and exchange, to enjoy the Olympics from their particular national vantage, and to promote their national sports movement.

But society is not organised only by nations. Society includes any number of communities, among including that of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. And like the various nations, we too have our sports movement, our organisations, our events.

At the heart of this Pride House is an experienced operator, Pride Sports UK, joined by the international bodies European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation, Federation of Gay Games, and Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association. Other groups joined the project, whether sports groups like Phoenix FC, or more broadly based groups like the LGBT Consortium. Gay Star News has supported it as a media partner.

Our goal was to offer our community a place to meet, to watch the Olympics, to promote our movement, and to cheer on our heroes, people like openly LGBT Olympians Ji Wallace, Claire Harvey, and Karen Hultzer who all honoured us by visiting Pride House last weekend.

LGBT sport is about participation: and that's why we were eager to include in our progaming sports events like last Sunday's football tournament or Thursday's 5K run.

And unlike the various national or corporate ‘houses’, we have an additional duty: to fight homophobia in and by sport. Thus our exhibitions Against the Rules and Fearless, showing the struggles of closeted athletes, the courage of out athletes, and the price many of them paid for their orientation. And that's why we used Pride House to meet to find ways of continuing to work together to combat homophobia, in particular in the Olympic Movement. And that's why we'll be at Sochi.Park on 9 August, to make sure that during the 2014 Winter Games, visitors and locals, athletes and fans, coaches and support staff, will be able to meet as a community, alongside their friends and allies, in a safe and welcoming place, open to all.

Meanwhile we’ve already had a highly successful opening weekend. But it’s not too late to get involved with Pride House 2012. Places remain available for many events this week: learn more below!

Two well-attended receptions, one for the opening of the Pride House exhibitions and a second to officially open Pride House at CA House on Limehouse Basin, saw visits from Olympians Ji Wallace (Australia, silver medal in trampoline in 2002) and Karen Hultzer (South Africa, archery, 2012) and captain of the Team GB Paralympic sitting volleyball team Claire Harvey.

Wallace was guest of honour at Saturday's inaugural LGBT Day at the London Broncos RSL match against Salford City Reds, where donations were collected for Diversity Role Models, while Sunday saw the Pride House football tournament, the first in what host Phoenix FC hopes will be an annual event.

Yesterday (7 August) was the Pride House Youth Day run by the LGBT Consortium. After a morning of bowling, youth groups met at Pride House for a workshop on their vision for society and their lives by the time of the next Olympiad.

Today will see the Tennis Taster at Victoria Park in east London until 7:30pm, run by local group Tower Hamlets Tennis. The sessions are open to all, free of charge, with no reservation needed. Tennis rackets are supplied so that one and all can have a go at the sport.

On Thursday (9 August) evening the Docklands Dash will take runners of all levels on a scenic jaunt from Limehouse Basin (start time 7pm) through the Docklands and back. Register here.

Human rights campaigner Claire Dimyon will run with rainbow-coloured papers bearing messages from Ukrainian LGBT people, forming ‘a torch of hope and solidarity’.

Pride House offers two events on Friday (10 August): a day of information and training for sports club staff at the Sport England Club Leaders bus at Hyde Park. More info here.

That evening, the Pride House Bowling Bash welcomes bowlers of all levels to the London Palace Superbowl at south London’s Elephant and Castle. Information and registration are here.

On Saturday, the Pride House Picnic and Games Day will take place from noon to 4pm at Clissold Park in Stoke Newingham. You bring your food and drink, and we'll provide the fun and games! Find more information here.

That evening, the Shadow Lounge in Soho, welcomes the Pride House Party. Entry is free to all from 10pm by registering via the address [email protected]. (The Shadow Lounge will open to the general public at 10pm).

Finally, on Sunday (12 August), the last day of the Olympics, we'll see Pride House back at CA House for a final day of Olympic viewing and socialising. That evening we've added a closing reception. It's open to all, but you must RSVP for at [email protected]. Register now, because capacity is limited.

All details on Pride House and associated events are on the official site, pridehouse2012.org.

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