In the wake of Russia enacting legislation last summer widely seen as an attack on gay rights, and ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics, Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov claimed that there were no gay people in Sochi.
According to the BBC:
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."
A political opponent of Pakhomov claimed that the city has multiple gay bars, one of which was visited by a BBC reporter before his interview with the mayor. Drag queen Madame Zhu-Zha told the BBC that the resort town did have a gay community though it is reportedly on the decline.
Another member of Russia's Olympic effort, Svetlana Zhurova, also defended the law preventing the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors. Zhurova is also a member of Russia's parliament who voted in favor of the law. She has a long history with the Olympics, as a gold-medalist speed skater and in Sochi as a "mayor" of the Olympic Village.
The United States' delegation for the Games includes at least three LGBT members: figure skater Brian Boitano, tennis player Billie Jean King, and hockey player Caitlin Cahow.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.