Winter Olympics 2014: Mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, Warns Gay Visitors

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2014

AP Images

Anatoly Pakhomov, mayor of Sochi, this year's Winter Olympics host, has warned gay visitors they must "respect Russian law" during their stay.

As reported by John Sweeney of BBC News, Pakhomov went on to tell homosexual attendees they must not "impose their habits on others."

Pakhomov insisted there are no gay people living in Sochi during a conversation with BBC's Panorama, as reported by Alisdair Glennie of the Daily Mail. "[W]e 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," Pakhomov was quoted as saying.

Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press

This comes shortly after Russian president Vladimir Putin confirmed the country has "a ban on promoting homosexuality and paedophilia among minors," per an alternate BBC News report.

Although Putin also suggested "you can feel free in your relationships," the law passed during June 2013 is widely regarded to be a measure against gay rights.

John Sweeney of The Independent, who worked on the Panorama show to be screened on Jan. 27, described the intimidating process of discussing homosexuality in Russia with Pakhomov:

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I have been in Sochi for a Panorama programme to be broadcast on Monday night, and Anatoly Pakhomov told us that there are no gay people in his town.

And despite Mr Putin’s guarantee to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that journalists would also be welcome in Sochi, soldiers from the FSB – the state security organisation, detained the Panorama team, including me, and took our passports.

Alexei Nikolsky/Associated Press

Many world leaders are expected to turn down an invite to the event in protest of Russia's anti-gay laws. Barack Obama decided against joining the American delegation and also stopped first lady Michelle Obama from attending.

Joe Biden, the current vice president, will also be absent. This signals the first Olympics since 2000 where one of the three high-ranking positions has failed to appear, as reported by Kelly Whiteside of USA Today.

Instead, Obama opted to send openly gay tennis legend Billie Jean King, perhaps as an act of defiance.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Boris Nemtsov, opposition leader against Putin, believes Pakhomov's comments are "unbelievable," as noted in Sweeney's report.

Russia's controversial stance on homosexuality is not the only negative news to make headlines, as real concerns for safety have become an issue.

Frank Gardner, the BBC's security correspondent, reports U.K. government officials are warning that terrorist attacks are "very likely to occur" after a twin blast killed 34 in Volgograd during December.

Nataliya Vasilyeva/Associated Press

The Sochi Winter Olympics take place between Feb. 7-23 and will see representatives from 88 nations compete across 98 events in seven sports.

A lack of local tolerance threatens to overshadow the action and indeed cripple the nation's hopes of putting on a positive sporting event before the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018.

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