Igor Yakunin / AP, file
Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov
The mayor of Sochi told a reporter that there are no gay people in the city hosting the Winter Olympics — but the patrons of one bar didn't get the memo.
The same BBC reporter had visited a gay tavern in the Black Sea resort town the night before he interviewed Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, who said the whole city is straight.
"We do not have them in our city," Pakhomov flatly told the BBC.
Pressed further, the mayor backtracked a bit: "I am not sure, but I don't bloody know them."
But drag queen Madame Zhu-Zha told the network there is a gay community in Sochi, just like the rest of Russia — where President Vladimir Putin has banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations."
"There are very many clubs for gay people in Moscow — in Sochi we have two gay clubs as well. In some places there's serious prejudice against gay people. In other places it's not as bad," the performer said.
Pakhomov, who is a member of Putin's United Russia party, said gays will be welcome at the games, which open Feb. 7, for the most part.
"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.
Asked whether they had to keep their sexuality under wraps in Sochi, the mayor added: "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. "
Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader, scoffed at Pakhomov's assertion.
"As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi," he said. "How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?"