The mayor of Sochi says there are no gay people in his town, population 343,000.
Anatoly Pakhomov, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, told Panorama that gay people would be welcome at the Games. “Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and doesn’t impose their habits on others”, he said. But when asked whether gay people had to hide their sexuality in Sochi, the Mayor said: “No, we just say that it is your business, it’s your life. But it’s not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city.” When challenged, the mayor admitted that he was not certain there were no gay people in Sochi: “I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them.” BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney visited a gay bar in Sochi the night before he interviewed the mayor.
A leader of Russia’s opposition party scoffed at the mayor’s words: “As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi. How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?”