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Canada Steps Up To Host Pride House At 2018 Winter Olympics

Canada Olympic House to serve as haven for LGBT athletes in PyeongChang.

Canada is continuing its tradition of creating safe spaces for LGBT Olympians at this month's Games in South Korea.

Canada House will also serve as Pride House during the PyeongChang Games after South Korean organizers failed to raise enough money to open a standalone LGBT centre in the Olympic village, CBC News reported.

This will be the first Pride House in Asia, according to The Georgia Straight. An opening for fans was held on Saturday.

This is also the first time a Pride House is directly affiliated with a national Olympic committee.

"We recognize that diversity is our greatest strength. Inclusion is the very foundation of what makes the heart of Team Canada. By hosting Pride House in our Canada Olympic House, we are extending our warmest welcome to all from every corner of the world to celebrate 'Be Olympic'," Chris Overholt, CEO and Secretary General of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said in a press release.

The first official Pride House was created for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, according to the Pride House International website. The 2010 Games had two locations, one in Vancouver and one in Whistler.

Pride House are safe spaces and resource centres designed to welcome LGBT athletes, fans and their allies during international sporting events. They are inclusive places to "view the competitions, experience the event with others, learn about LGBTIQ+ sport and homophobia in sport, and build a relationship with mainstream sport."

When the Sochi Olympics in Russia denied requests for a Pride House, Canada stepped up again and established one of many "remote" solidarity Pride Houses set up in cities across the globe. Toronto's Pride House was set up to shine a spotlight on Russia's anti-gay laws and to celebrate the Olympics.

I promise, for every athlete that's out, there's at least one or two that aren't.Mark Tewksbury, Olympic gold medallist

At this year's Games, there are 13 openly LGBT athletes. The number might seem small, but according to Mark Tewksbury, an Olympic gold medallist who came out of the closet several years after he won his medal, there are many more athletes who identify as part of the community in Pyeongchang.

"I promise, for every athlete that's out, there's at least one or two that aren't," Tewksbury told CBC Radio.

The COC's decision to partner with Pride House International offers a stark contrast with the U.S. Olympic delegation. Figure skater Adam Rippon and freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, both openly gay athletes representing the U.S., have criticized the decision to have Vice President Mike Pence lead Team USA to the Olympics. Pence has often been called out for his history of undermining LGBT rights and support for conversion therapy.

"The 2018 Winter Olympic Gaymes are officially under way!" Kenworthy captioned an Instagram post of a photo of himself and Rippon "I'm so proud to be representing the LGBTQ community alongside this amazing guy! Eat your heart out, Pence."

At least now, Kenworthy, Rippon and all the other out athletes in Pyeongchang know there's a place in the Olympic Village that will welcome them with open arms even if they are wearing another team's colours.

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