MOSCOW, January 4 (R-Sport) – International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach on Saturday welcomed steps taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift a ban on protests during the Sochi Winter Games next month.
The February 7-23 Games are the first under Bach’s watch and the German praised Putin for following up on promises made last year to adhere to so-called Olympic values during the event.
“We welcome this announcement,” Bach was quoted as saying in an IOC statement sent to R-Sport. “It is in line with the assurances that President Putin gave us last year and part of the Russians authority’s plans to ensure free expression during the Games while delivering a safe and secure Games.”
Putin had put a blanket ban on any rallies or demonstrations in a presidential decree last August, but reversed it in a surprise announcement on Saturday that nevertheless noted protests will still require official permission during the broader Olympic period of January 7 through March 21.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti that in practice, local authorities and Games organizers would jointly nominate a suitable public area for protests, suggesting they would be restricted to that area alone.