According to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), Russian Olympic organizers will have designated public “protest zones” at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
During a teleconference held in Lausanne, Switzerland, IOC President Thomas Bach told the press of the game makers’ compromise.
“We welcome the announcement of the Organizing Committee that in Sochi there will be protest zones that will be established for people who want to demonstrate against something,” said Bach.
Bach, a 59-year-old former Olympic fencing champion from Germany, succeeded former IOC President Jacques Rogge in September.
“[Protestors] will have the opportunity to do so in special protest zones. This was under discussion with the IOC for quite some time. It was announced to us today [December 9] and it will be located in Sochi.”
The decision to hold the games in Sochi even after the anti-gay propaganda laws passed this summer has been a widely disputed controversy. Many were furious with former IOC President Rogge’s decision not to relocate the games, though he maintained that it was not his place to do so. Rogge stepped down after twelve years, the maximum time allowed for the position.
While the public’s upset continues to run high, Russian authorities insist that the propaganda laws, which ban the discussion of homosexuality and LGBT rights where children might be in earshot—so, almost anywhere—will not put visiting Olympic athletes or spectators at risk.
German President Joachim Gauck announced on Monday, December 9, that he will not be attending the games. Since the announcement, the media has speculated whether or not Gauck’s decision was an act of protest. However, the president’s office denies those claims.
“On a personal note, I know President Gauck is a very straightforward man,” said Bach. “If his decision would have any political motivation he would have said this…I know him a little bit. He knows how to use the words and if he had something to say he would have said it.”
But Viviane Reding—the European Union Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship—is speaking very publically about her decision not to attend the games, tweeting, “I will certainly not go to Sotchi [sic]as long as minorities are treated the way they are under the current Russian legislation.”