Sochi mayor snubs Vancouver councillor
Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov speaks at city hall about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia during a formal ceremony in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. (CHAD GIBSON /24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)
Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson, newly returned from the Winter Olympic Games, says a planned meeting with the Sochi mayor never materialized as it was scheduled for the same time he was leaving the Russian city.
The Vision Vancouver member was in Sochi representing Vancouver as a gay councillor amidst the backdrop of one of the biggest stories of the Games – Russia’s oppression of the LGBTQ community.
His aim was to push for better recognition of rights for the community, including language to that effect added to the Olympic Charter.
Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov recently claimed to reporters there were no gays in the seaside city. While Stevenson said his failure to see the mayor wasn’t a big deal he pointed out he was there to meet the International Olympic Committee to discuss LGBTQ rights.
“He was the least important person of all, frankly. The only reason I wanted to meet with him is because he made that quip about no gays,” Stevenson told 24 hours Monday. “The people that we wanted to see were the committee members of the IOC.”
Stevenson met with the Switzerland-based IOC’s top two bureaucrats for more than an hour, but said Pakhomov wasn’t open to a meeting until after Stevenson told him when he’d be leaving Russia.
Pakhomov then said he could meet him at 7 a.m., the same time Stevenson’s flight was leaving.
“They just refused to meet, that’s all,” he said. “I just basically wanted to say to the mayor of Sochi, ‘Yes, there are gays here. I went to a gay club while I was here.’”
Stevenson’s trip was controversial from the start after it was originally announced it would be paid for by local businessmen, most notably developers Bob Rennie and Peter Wall, among others.
Non-Partisan Association Coun. George Affleck then suggested developers footing the bill – estimated at $100,000 at the time — could be a conflict of interest. Eventually council decided the city would pay.