Mayor says no gay residents in Sochi

Updated: January 27, 2014, 11:55 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The mayor of Sochi, Russia, says there are no gays in his city, which will host the Winter Olympics next month.

"We don't have them in our town," Anatoly Pakhomov told the BBC in an interview that aired Monday.

[+] EnlargeAnatoly Pakhomov
AP photo/Igor YakuninSochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov says he doesn't know of any gay residents in the city.

Asked whether he was positive, the mayor replied, "I'm not sure, I don't bloody know them."

A ban on propaganda of "nontraditional sexual relations" that was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June has provoked widespread international outrage from critics who believe the legislation discriminates against gays.

Despite his belief about Sochi's residents, Pakhomov said all visitors would be welcome at the Winter Olympics as long as they follow the law.

"Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian federation and who doesn't impose their habits and their will on others," he said. "But yes, everyone is welcome."

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov laughed at the mayor's response and wondered how Sochi's several gay bars stay in business.

Also Monday, another opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, launched a website to publish a wide range of data pointing to corruption in Sochi.

Russia has spent about $51 billion to deliver the Games in Sochi, which run Feb. 6-23, making them the most expensive Olympics.

Navalny's website -- Sochi.FBK.info -- combines his own investigations of alleged corruption in Sochi with media reports and other activists' analysis.

"Athletes are not the only people who compete in Sochi," Navalny, who finished a strong second in Moscow's mayoral election last year, said on the website. "Officials and businessmen also took part in the Games and turned them into a source of income."

Navalny claims that the costs of at least 10 Olympics venues were twice as high as they should have been. He also lists deals in Sochi construction with evident conflicts of interest.

Putin has rejected claims about rampant corruption in Sochi, saying that the inflated prices were due to the honest mistakes of investors.

"If anybody has got this information, please show this to us," Putin said in a recent television interview. "But so far we haven't seen anything except speculation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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