The 2020 Arctic Winter Games will be celebrating their 50th anniversary when they arrive in Whitehorse on March 15. In celebrating the Games’ milestone, the 2020 Host Society is putting forward new ideas that will hopefully leave a lasting legacy for the next 50 years.
One project by the Host Society, specifically the members of the Inclusion Task Force, is the Pride House. It will be the first time a Pride House will be a part of the Arctic Winter Games.
Host Society general manager Moira Lassen got the idea for a Pride House after being involved in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and then other international sporting events.
“I was involved in the very first Pride House at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Lassen. “I thought it was a really excellent thing to do. I was the executive director of Athletes Canada at the time and that’s how I got involved.
“Then I went to London (2012) and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Pride House there. When I was in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 I was involved in helping them with their Pride House as well.”
The Arctic Winter Games Pride House will have a designated space at Yukon College.
“I think it is just a more comfortable space for people to be open and true to themselves,” said Lassen. “People are accepting that in society now. This is a safe space for everybody to go.”
Mia Val and Lindsay Smith are members of the Inclusion Task Force who helped bring the idea of the Pride House to fruition.
Smith said she wanted to get involved in the project as a way to enrich her time with the Host Society and work on something close to her personally and professionally.
“In conversation with Moira this is kind of an area that came up,” said Smith. “Then it was pretty informal. I talked to Mia about it. It was something very bare-bones at the beginning and then it’s kind of just grown from there.
“I’ve worked in sports now since 2015. It’s an element that in a lot of sports capacities isn’t considered to the full extent that it should be given because it’s part of being human.”
Val said they come at it more from the personal side and that together, they and Smith complement each other well.
The 2020 Host Society has partnered with Queer Yukon and they will be the ones putting on the Pride House said Val.
“They have full creative license to what the actual room itself looks like as well as any programs that they are looking to run,” said Smith. “They have loosely talked about a lot of representation in terms of anything from comics, movies that would be of interest to the queer community and their allies.
“Also, there will be very specific resources as well that individuals and especially young athletes might not have seen or have had access to in the past.”
The Pride House is not open to the public, instead, it is open to all games-accredited LGBTQ2+ people and their allies.
On the international stage, the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games in Korea did not feature a Pride House, but Lassen said the Canadian House acted as the Pride House.
“I think sports now, like international federations and national sport organizations realize it’s their responsibility to engage everybody in their sport,” said Lassen. “They want to spread inclusivity.
“It is quite an honour that we come from a country like this.”
Smith believed it is important for the smaller international multi-sports games to catch up to their larger peers.
“Arguably, grassroots are really where these elements are super needed because everyone who got to an Olympics started at the grassroots level,” said Smith. “It’s refreshing to have it at this entry, multi-sport level.”
The 2020 Host Society has worked hard to make inclusiveness an important part of the 50th anniversary Games in Whitehorse.
“We have a lot more socio-cultural initiatives in these Games than have been seen in the past,” said Smith. “We are really committed to having more of a focus on education and experience on Yukon First Nations culture, of course very different (than the Pride House) given the numbers and of course inclusion.”
Lassen, Smith and Val said when the project was presented to the International Committee and the representatives from the other delegations it was a welcomed idea.
“Right from the very beginning we got good uptake,” said Lassen. “People were quite thrilled with it.”
“It seemed to be really well received especially when we presented to our international contingents,” said Smith.
“Everyone was excited.
“We did challenge the next host society to continue it while they were visiting so we got a bit of the sports competition piece in there as well.”
The next AWG will be held in Wood Buffalo, Alta. in 2022.
All three agreed that they hope the Pride House becomes a lasting legacy from the 2020 games.
“I like creating legacy,” said Lassen. “Its about time. Society is opening up and we are always developing as humanity so this is just one part of it.”
“I hope it goes forward, I think it’d be sweet if every time it happens it gets built on and keeps getting better,” said Val.
“There wasn’t really a foundation in the past but maybe next time it can be improved.
“If it goes well here it can only go up, that’s the goal.”
Lassen said the Canadian Olympic Committee has allowed the AWG to use their welcome sign.
“They allowed us to use the text and amend it to fit our space, the north,” said Lassen.
“We’ve done that and it’s really lovely wording. That will be at the Pride House as well as other spaces around town.”
The welcome sign reads:
WELCOME TO THE WHITEHORSE 2020 ARCTIC WINTER GAMES
Within these Games where those with Northern hearts come to gather, you are welcomed, accepted and respected.
These are your Games, no matter who you are or where you come from.
You are at home, regardless of your sex, sexual orientation, race, marital or family status, gender identity or expression, sex characteristics, creed, age, colour, disability, political or religious belief.
All that we ask is that you be respectful of all participants.
Bring it, North!