International Olympic Committee president confirms there will be protest zones set up at Sochi

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In the face of heavy criticism of Russia’s human rights history, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach sought to diffuse the situation with an announcement on Tuesday.

Mr Bach said that he had spoken to organisers of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, who had told him that there would be special zones set up for those who wished to protest.

In the first board meeting he has chaired as president of the IOC, Mr Bach said the zones would be there for “people who want to express their opinion or want to demonstrate for or against something.”

He went on to say that he was not given details of how many zones there would be, or where they would be located.

Speaking at a news conference, he said:”This is a measure we welcome, so that everybody can express his or her free opinion.”

A decree banning demonstrations and rallies has been signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was set to take place over the duration of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Tuesday’s announcement follows in the steps of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where China set up sanctioned protest zones, which protesters had to apply to use.

Almost 200 applications were made, but the majority were rejected or withdrawn and some activists were detained reports the Times Standard.

On Tuesday, the IOC also finalised a letter to be sent to all Sochi 2014 participants warning them against making political protests during their time there.

The note focuses on Rule 50 in the Olympic Charter, which states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Bach said: “We are going a step further to explain to the athletes why these rules are established and they are there to protect themselves.”

Another federal bill banning the promotion of homosexuality was signed into law by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in June.

Thomas Bach replaced Jacques Rogge as IOC president in September.