By Zjan Shirinian

Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov (right) has said gay people do not live in his city ©Getty ImagesJanuary 27 - The Mayor of Winter Olympic and Paralympic host city Sochi has said gay people do not live there.

Anatoly Pakhomov told the BBC's Panaroma programme: "We don't have them in our town."

When asked if he was sure, he remarked: "I'm not sure, I don't bloody know them."

Russia's law banning the "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" has provoked widespread international condemnation since it was introduced last year.

A number of international figures have said they will stay away from the Games because of the law.

Mayor Pakhomov added in his interview: "Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and who doesn't impose their habits and their will on others."

Russian President Vladimir Putin sparked consternation earlier this month when he told volunteers for the Sochi Games that gay people should "leave children in peace", according to Russian agencies.

Russia's anti-gay laws have sparked protest, both in Russia and overseas ©AFP/Getty ImagesRussia's anti-gay laws have sparked protests, both in Russia and overseas ©AFP/Getty Images

He added: "We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships.

"We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia.

"I want to underline this.

"Propaganda among children.

"These are absolutely different things - a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing.

"We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations."

Last week, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev downplayed the controversial anti-gay rights laws, describing it as an issue "invented abroad" which is "non-existent" in his country.

A protest zone in the Russian town of Khosta, about 18 kilometres from the Sochi 2014 Coastal Cluster containing the Olympic Stadium, has been created by organisers for people to use during the Games.

The official US delegation in Sochi will be led by openly gay athletes: former tennis player Billie Jean King, Caitlin Cahow, a two-time Olympic ice hockey medallist, and ex-Olympic skating champion Brian Boitano.

The Games are due to begin on February 6, with the Opening Ceremony the following day.