Pride Toronto recognizes Whistler Pride House 

Pride Toronto, which organizes one of the largest pride celebrations in North America, is recognizing GayWhistler at its annual awards on June 30 for creating an Olympic Pride House in Whistler during to the 2010 Games - a first for an Olympic Games, not including the house in Vancouver that followed Whistler's example.

The Pride house, which was located at the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre Hotel, hosted gay and lesbian athletes, coaches, family, friends and "allies." It was nominated in the sport category for the Pride Toronto award, and GayWhistler founder Dean Nelson hopes to be there to accept the honour in person.

"We're really excited about it," said Nelson, who is still not sure who nominated them for the award. "There is someone on the Pride Toronto executive committee who saw what we are doing during the Games... and I think that's who nominated us."

GayWhistler hosts events in Whistler for the gay community, including the annual Winter Pride ski week. Nelson told Pique in February that he got the idea to host a Pride House in Whistler during the Games while taking part in a pride march in Budapest, Hungary where the 900 marchers were protected by 1,500 police and soldiers as they were attacked by crowds throwing rocks and fire bombs. Not only was Whistler Olympic Pride House created to give people a place to go, but also to draw attention to the fact that it is still illegal to identify as gay in more than 70 countries.

Nelson says the experience of running the Pride House was rewarding in itself.

"The experience was really quite extraordinary," he said. "I think the most interesting thing was seeing all the young families coming in, dragging their kids or being dragged by their kids, and saying, you know, 'isn't Canada a cool country, look how they embrace all people and celebrate that diversity.'"

Nelson said Whistler Olympic Pride House set the tone for other Games organizers. He has been in contact with the organizers of the London Games in 2012, as well as Pride groups in England that will need to be involved. Nelson has also offered his services in setting up a house during the 2012 Games.

"We really hope London will take off, because if that happens then the precedents have been set," said Nelson. "We were very grass roots and hosted a private space within the Olympics but it looks like it has the potential to be a little more official."



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