Sochi sets up protest zones in city: IOC

Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:03pm EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The city of Sochi will have specific protest zones for demonstrators to air their views when it hosts the 2014 winter Olympics in February, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was told on Tuesday.

"We welcome the announcement of the (Sochi) organizing committee that in Sochi there will be protest zones that will be established for people who want to demonstrate against something," IOC President Thomas Bach told reporters after a progress report by the Russian Games organizers.

"They (protesters) will have the opportunity to do so in special protest zones," he said.

Russia has been under mounting criticism over its human rights record, especially this year after passing an anti-gay propaganda law which critics say curtails the rights of homosexuals.

"This was under discussion with the IOC for quite some time," Bach said. "It was announced to us today and it (zones) will be located in Sochi."

Protest zones were also created during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, but were located away from the venues and hardly used.

For Sochi, however, it is unclear how such protests could take place given the Russian Black Sea resort will be all but locked down for the Olympics for security reasons.

Russia faces security challenges because the city is next to the restive North Caucasus region, which is disrupted by almost daily violence from an Islamist insurgency rooted in two Chechen wars.   Continued...

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attends a news conference at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse