The mayor of Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics, told BBC on Sunday that homosexuality does not exist among the residents of the city. While he backed off on the claim shortly thereafter, Anatoly Pakhomov also told BBC that homosexuality is "not accepted" in Sochi.
"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."
Russia has drawn criticism for its stance on homosexuality in relation to the Winter Olympics, including anti-gay laws that have since been lifted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the months before the Games are set to begin.
On Friday, Putin told reporters that the country does not ban "nontraditional sexual relations," but is looking to put a stop to the "propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia" to minors. As such, Putin said gay athletes are welcome at the games with the stipulation that they "leave the children in peace."
In reaction to Pakhomov's comments about homosexuality among the residents of Sochi, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov told BBC that there are several gay bars in the city:
"As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi. How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?"
The Opening Ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics is scheduled to begin on Friday, Feb. 7 and will be broadcast on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET.