Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov says that gay citizens are welcome in his city, if only there were any. Nope. As the town prepares to play host to the Winter Olympics in two weeks, Pakhomov (remember — you can’t spell “Pakhomov” without “homo”) says that the only gay people in town will be those gay athletes who arrive from other countries. Seriously.
“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.
But when asked whether gay people had to hide their sexuality in Sochi, the Mayor said: “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.”
Funny, because Sochi has at least two thriving gay clubs. How this little fact has escaped the mayor of the city is a mystery, but the town’s status has been upgraded from “We do not have them in our city” to “Very gay.” Or, on the color code chart, from “Gray” to “Lavender”.
BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney visited a gay bar in Sochi the night before he interviewed the mayor.
Drag queen Madame Zhu-Zha said there was a gay community in the city and in other areas of Russia.
“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.”
Meanwhile, soda-related controversy bubbles up as Coca-Cola is denied a gay magazine award due to a policy on its web site. The Coke site has a feature in which readers can type a virtual message onto a Coke can to share with friends. But certain words are banned by the site, and “gay” is one of them.
Users of the page are instead given the message ‘Oops. Let’s pretend you didn’t just type that. Please try another name’ which is usually displayed when a swear word is entered.
The company has also been accused of downplaying its sponsorship of the Sochi Winter Olympics in the West, to avoid upsetting gay rights activists.
Too bad — it’s Madame Zhu-Zha’s favorite drink.
Oh, and lest we forget, British anti-terror chiefs today have warned that a large-scale terror attack on the Winter Games in Sochi is “very likely to occur.”
This has been your Winter Olympics update. Or as we call it, “News They Won’t Show You On Orbitz.com”.