There is not a single gay person living in the host city of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games, according to Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomv.
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Video: no gay people in our town – Sochi mayor tells BBC
The inflammatory statement was made during a recent interview with BBC current affairs documentary program Panorama and adds to the gay rights controversies that surround Russia’s recently passed anti-gay laws ahead of Sochi 2014 that ban the distribution of gay “propaganda” to minors and in public spaces.
“We just say that it is your business, it’s your life. But it’s not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live,” said Pakhomv while speaking to the BBC interviewer John Sweeney. “We do not have them in our city.”
“Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and does not impose their habits on others.”
Clarifying on his statements later in the interview, he added, “I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know any [homosexuals].”
The comments come after continuing concerns over the public safety of gays in Sochi given the steep rise in homophobic attacks in Russia since last year, and whether they will face the possibility of arrest if they are seen protesting publicly.
Last week, Russian president Vladamir Putin addressed the issue and initially appeared to offer a warm welcome to gay visitors to Sochi, but then he proceeded to link them to pedophiles by adding that they “leave children in peace.”
Pakhomv is a member of Putin’s United Russia political party and accepted the Olympic Flag from Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson during the 2010 Games Closing Ceremony.
The two men hold polar opposite views on homosexuality with Robertson well-known for being a strong advocate and defender of gay rights. Last summer, Vancouver’s mayor issued a statement that slammed the Russian government’s implementation of its anti-gay laws.
This week, Vancouver City Council will also be sending openly gay city councillor Tim Stevenson to Sochi. Acting as Vancouver’s deputy mayor, Stevenson will lobby the International Olympic Committee to expand the non-discrimination clause within the Olympic Charter so that sexual orientation will also be protected.
He will also attempt to convince the international sports organization to make Pride Houses a requirement for future Olympic host cities. As an Olympic first, Vancouver and Whistler operated Pride Houses during the 2010 Games to provide LGBTQ athletes and coaches a ‘safe’ and supportive gathering place.
Pride Houses returned to the Olympics during the London 2012 Summer Games and will likely be reprised at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Games.
It goes without saying that Pride Houses will not be found at Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. In fact, such establishments were banned by a Russian judge who deemed it “extremist” and a danger to “public morality.”
Featured Image: Gay flag via Shutterstock