If anyone is arrested during the Winter Olympics for violating Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, it won’t be a resident of Sochi, the host city — so says the city’s mayor.
Why? Because, according to Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, there are no gay people in Sochi, a city of about 340,000 people.
Pakhomov tells the BBC that gays and lesbians will be welcome at the Olympics, so long as they don’t “impose their habits on others.” He also denies that LGBT people living in Sochi have to hide their sexuality.
“No, we just say that it is your business, it’s your life,” the mayor says. “But it’s not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city.”
Pressed on the issue, Pakhomov says he’s not sure if any gay people live in Sochi, but if they do, “I don’t bloody know them.”
The BBC notes one of its reporters visited a gay club in Sochi the night before interviewing the mayor, and a Russian opposition leader laughs as Pakhomov’s claims.
“As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi,” says former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, now a leader in the opposition party. “How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?”
The Winter Olympics begin competition on Feb. 6; the opening ceremonies are set for Feb. 7.