By Paris Ayiomamitis

Thessaloniki’s maverick mayor Yiannis Boutaris has posed nude to defend gay rights and raise HIV awareness ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.

The photoshoot was done for the Adore lifestyle magazine.

Βoutaris, 71, said he wants Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, to be an ’open city’ for people regardless of their sexual orientation and has thrown his weight behind Gay Pride and the Thessaloniki Pride festival. since it began in 2012.

“I’m not saying that 600,000 people should come to our city…50,000 is a good figure, given the city’s size,” he said.

Boutaris, whose straight-talking manner has earned him friends and foes alike, took office in 2011, pledging to revive Thessaloniki’s historic role as a cosmopolitan and open Balkan hub, which could increase business and tourism.

“If we can manage to bring 50,000 gays to Thessaloniki from, the Balkans, the Middle East, from anywhere, to express their positions, that would be something good for the city”.

“At the moment, no more than 2,000-3,000 come to Thessaloniki. If they become 50,000 then that will be a huge success.”

Boutari’s progressive outlook on gays, religion and his public comments against anti-semitism  has drawn the ire of religious conservatives and nationalists and he, reportedly, told the magazine, that it will take some time before Greece’s northern port city really opens up.

“I don’t see Thessaloniki becoming a completely open city in my generation,” he said.