Russia To Have Protest Zone During Olympics

By Lisa Keen

Keen News Service

The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that Russian authorities "plan to set up a protest zone in the city of Sochi."

Concern about protests at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in February have been building for months since the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin enacted laws to prohibit virtually any form of positive expression about "non-traditional" sexual orientations. Activists have pushed athletes, corporate sponsors, and others to express their opposition to the anti-gay laws. The Russian government has promised to both abide by the Olympic Principle 6, which prohibits discrimination of any kind, and to enforce its anti-gay laws. In August, Putin even issued a special decree banning political protests during the Olympics in Sochi.

In a press release Dec. 10, IOC President Thomas Bach said he welcomes the plan for the protest zone "and the fact that people will now have an opportunity to express their views and freely demonstrate their opinions in Sochi."

Bach told reporters that the idea had been "under discussion with the IOC for quite some time," though no mention of the possibility had been mentioned previously.

The news came just one day after the IOC announced that it would, during Tuesday's IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, approve a letter to athletes reminding them that Rule 50 of the IOC Charter states that "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

The press release indicated that the executive board did discuss Rule 50, as well as Rule 40, related to drug testing.

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