There aren't any gay people in Sochi—or so its mayor claims ahead of the Winter Olympics. Anatoly Pakhomov told the BBC that being gay is "not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city." Questioned further, he acknowledged that he was "not sure" whether any gay people live in Sochi, "but I don't bloody know them." A Russian opposition leader called the idea ridiculous. "As far as I know, there are several gay clubs in Sochi. How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?"
BBC reporter John Sweeney visited one of the clubs, and found that many people weren't willing to be filmed. One man said there are "very many" gay clubs in Moscow and some in Sochi. "In some places there's serious prejudice against gay people. In other places it's not as bad," he noted. And writing for the Independent, Sweeney calls Pakhomov's assertion "preposterously untrue to anyone who knows anything about the beach resort in Russia’s deep south." Still, Pakhomov says gay people are 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." Vladimir Putin has said gay visitors should "feel calm and at ease," but "leave the kids alone."