Controversy over LGBTQ rights in Russia has sparked dispute over this year’s Olympic Games. Illustration: Natalia Balcerzak

Let the Winter Olympic Games begin

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By Olivia McLeod

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games are right around the corner and despite months of protests, there is still controversy over LGBTQ rights in Russia. Ryerson is raising awareness about these issues by creating an inclusive space for the community to come together and watch the games.

Starting Feb. 7-23, Ryerson’s Lake Devo will be transformed into an outdoor viewing venue. This will be one of the only outdoor areas in Toronto where people can gather to watch the Olympic Games.

PrideHouseTO, a coalition of 15 organizations – together with the help of campus group PositiveSpace Ryerson – is hosting the event.

Founded two years ago for the 2010 Games, PrideHouseTO’s goal is to ensure that sporting events are inclusive for everyone.

“Knowing the complicated relationship LGBTQ has with sport, this will really be an amazing outdoor venue,” said Barb Besharat, project staff member for Pride HouseTO. “We’re working to create a welcoming and inclusive space that is pretty unique for Toronto.”

Ryerson has been part of the PrideHouseTO coalition for a year.

“I think this is one of the initiatives that we have been working towards… to really try to make people on our campus more aware of global issues,” said Stephen Tang, PositiveSpace Ryerson co-chair.

Tang said that this event is an opportunity to raise awareness for what’s going on in other places where LGBTQ community members are forced to censor who they are. Russia is one place that has yet to establish LGBTQ rights and the concept of a PrideHouse doesn’t exist there.

Emily Rose Galliani Pecchia is a member of the Ryerson women’s hockey team, a team which, including herself, has a number of gay athletes.

She said the event is about creating an understanding that anyone can participate in a sport, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“Having a space where people can come starts to create connections. [People] can start to see that the queer community exists and that it’s not something weird and it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s something that we’re proud of,” she said.

In addition to the viewing area, there will also be a licensed lounge, vendors and public skating.

“I think it’s all part of that process of continuing to build bridges and engaging and supporting both our outside community, our neighbours, but also the LGBTQ community within Ryerson,” Tang said.

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