IOC wins Sochi pledge to allow protests at Games

Russian authorities have agreed to go back on President Vladimir Putin's decree that no protests will be permitted at the Olympics in Sochi next February after pressure applied from the International Olympic Committee, IOC president Thomas Bach announced on Tuesday.

IOC wins Sochi pledge to allow protests at Games
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. Photo: IOC

Instead there will be a sectioned off area where people will be permitted to voice their protests during the Games that runs from February 7th-23rd in the Black Sea resort where Putin has a holiday home.
In August Putin, who played a major role in Sochi winning the right to host the Games during the bid race which came to a heady climax in 2007, had issued a presidential decree which forbade any protests to take place over issues that were not linked to the Games.
This followed hot on the heels of the equally controversial law which is seen to be anti-gay and which has prompted calls for a boycott from some quarters.

Bach has rejected such calls out of hand — he has a bitter experience of such actions as he and his team-mates were unable to defend their fencing title at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of a western boycott over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
Bach, who was elected to the post in September succeeding outgoing president Jacques Rogge, has favoured dialogue instead and he said that discussions with the organizers of the Sochi Games had borne fruit as evidenced by the organizing committee's announcement on Tuesday that the protestors would after all have an area where they could protest about anything they liked.
"We welcome the announcement of the organizing committee which is following some discussions we had with our Russian partners that in Sochi a protest zone will be established," said Bach.
"The space will give people who want to express their opinion or want to demonstrate for or against something the opportunity to do it in a special protest zone in Sochi," the 59-year-old German said.
"It will be located in Sochi," he said.

"It will be open for demonstrations and protests," Bach said.

"It is a measure we welcome so that everybody can express his or her free opinion."
Asked whether the Russian authorities had offered guarantees that no protestors would be punished Bach said that the protest area was specifically designed to prevent such reprisals against protestors.
The organizers have not specified where the area will be and Bach not being over familiar with the geography of Sochi was not able to say whether it would be in the centre or on the outskirts of the resort.
Bach, a lawyer by profession, said that he would not comment on the decisions over the past two days that neither the German President Joachim Gauck nor European Commission vice-president Vivianne Reding would be attending the Games.
Reding had been especially frank saying there would be no way she would attend the Games given the way minorities are treated by the Russian government at the moment.
Gauck's office denied he was boycotting the Games —- although the former pastor and rights activist did go to the London Games.

But Germany's human rights commissioner Markus Loening told national news agency DPA that Gauck's decision not to go to the Games was "a wonderful gesture of support for all Russian citizens who are committed to freedom of expression, democracy and civil rights".
Bach was more circumspect in assessing Gauck's absence form the Games.
"Speaking on behalf of the IOC, I can only say this kind of invitation are invitations from governments to governments and it is not up to the IOC to interfere in government relationships," he said.
"The IOC wants its autonomy to be respected and it implies also we respect the sovereignty of the government," Bach said.
"But on a personal note, I know President Gauck a little bit," he said.

"He's a man who knows how to use his words, if he would have had something to say from a political prospective, I am sure he would have said this."
Bach said he was confident Sochi would be ready for the Winter Games extravaganza, although work remained to be done.
"There is still a lot to do in regard of accommodation, infrastructures, stadias and others issues but we are very confident that everything will be in place."

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Russian athletes lose appeal over Olympics ban

Forty-seven Russians implicated in doping lost a last-minute court bid to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Friday, just hours before the opening ceremony.

Russian athletes lose appeal over Olympics ban
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
The applicants, who included Korean-born speed skater Victor An, had asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn an International Olympic Committee decision not to invite them to Pyeongchang.
“The applications filed by Russian athletes and coaches have been dismissed,” the CAS said in a statement.
The Russian situation has proved highly contentious in the build-up to Pyeongchang, after their team was banned but a certain number of “clean” Russian athletes were allowed to take part as neutrals.
Fifteen of those who lost their bids on Friday were among a group of 28 who controversially had life bans from the Olympics overturned last week by CAS, which cited insufficient evidence.
The other 32, including An, biathlon gold medallist Anton Shipulin and Sergei Ustyugov, a cross-country skiing world champion, were omitted from the list of Russians invited to Pyeongchang.
“In its decisions, the CAS arbitrators have considered that the process created by the IOC to establish an invitation list of Russian athletes to compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) could not be described as a sanction but rather as an eligibility decision,” CAS said.
However, the CAS decision may not be the end of the matter. A source close to the IOC has told AFP that the 47 Russians have also lodged a case with a Swiss civil court in Lausanne.
A spokesman for the neutral Russian team, the 'Olympic Athletes from Russia', declined to comment when approached by AFP.