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The mounting concern regarding anti-gay sentiments in Sochi during the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics increased Monday with Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov‘s proclamation that there are “no gays” living in his city, which GLAAD, in an exclusive statement to The Hollywood Reporter, described as “heartbreaking.”
“The mayor of Sochi’s refusal to recognize the LGBT people in his city is the latest in a long line of heartbreaking disappointments defending the anti-propaganda law, a law that renders LGBT people invisible,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. “Understanding the lives of LGBT people and our families comes from visibility, but that visibility can only happen when LGBT people are safe in their own communities.
“The 2014 Winter Olympics will continue to be defined as the ‘anti-LGBT games’ until Russian and International Olympic Committee leaders can assure the safety of LGBT Russians before, during and after the games,” Ellis exclusively told THR.
Pakhomov, a Kremlin loyalist and member of ruling party United Russia, made the controversial comments during a BBC interview, in which he said that gay visitors to Sochi, where the Olympics open Feb. 7, were welcome as long as they did not “impose their habits on others.”
In a preview clip for an interview due to air Monday evening on the British public broadcaster, the mayor suggested that Sochi did not have a gay community and that homosexuality was not part of the culture of the Caucasus, the southern Russia region in which the city is located.
When asked by a BBC reporter who had visited a gay bar in the city whether gay people had to “hide their sexuality in Sochi,” the mayor said, “Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and doesn’t impose their habits on others.”
Added the mayor: “We say 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 reporter John Sweeney challenged the mayor’s claim, he responded by saying: “I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them.”
The International Olympics Committee has been urging Russian president Vladimir Putin to ensure there is no discrimination against homosexual people during the Winter Games.
Last year, Russia passed laws banning the promotion of “non-traditional” sexuality to people under the age of 18, which drew protests from many celebrities, including Elton John, Madonna and other Hollywood faces.
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