Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin softens ban on protests at Sochi Olympics

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has backed off his ban on “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” during the Olympics in Sochi.

Those demonstrations not connected with the Olympics may now be held if approved by the Interior Ministry that runs Russia’s police and Sochi city officials, according to RIA Novosti.

They’ll have to pick a city square where rallies or protests could be held, according to the report citing a Kremlin spokesman.

Authorities are generally stingy about granting permission for demonstrations to opposition groups, according to The Associated Press.

In August, Putin signed a decree outlawing any such demonstrations in Sochi from Jan. 7 through March 21, a span that includes the Olympics and Paralympics.

The easing on the restriction comes days after two suicide bombings in Volgograd, a city of one million 400 miles northeast of Sochi, raised concern over Olympic security.

In June, Putin signed a law banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations toward minors.

Video: Putin skis on Sochi slopes

2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships to be in San Jose

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The 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the final competition to determine the Pyeongchang Olympic team, will be in San Jose, California, at the SAP Center, concluding Jan. 7.

It appears to be the earliest the U.S. Figure Skating Championships will end in an Olympic year in at least 50 years.

The competition will be broadcast live on NBC and streamed live on Icenetwork.com.

San Jose previously hosted the U.S. Championships in 1996 and 2012, but it has never hosted in an Olympic year.

Sochi Olympian Polina Edmunds is from San Jose and figures to receive a boost of crowd support. Edmunds, 18, begins classes at nearby Santa Clara University next month.

The January 2017 U.S. Championships will be in Kansas City. The international figure skating season starts next month, with Skate America kicking off the Grand Prix season in October.

Recent Nationals host cities in Olympic years were Boston in 2014 and Spokane, Washington, in 2010.

MORE: Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold headline Skate America

Fiji Olympic rugby coach given 3 acres of land, special name

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11:  Gold medalists Ro Dakuwaqa of Fiji and Fiji head coach Ben Ryan celebrate after the medal ceremony for the Men's Rugby Sevens on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympics at Deodoro Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
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Olympic coaches don’t receive gold medals. Fiji Olympic men’s rugby coach Ben Ryan may have gotten something better anyway.

Ryan’s reward for guiding Fiji to its first Olympic medal in any sport — gold in rugby sevens’ Olympic debut — included three acres of land in Fiji and a new name, Ratu Peni Raiyani Latianara, according to Fijian reports.

Ryan, a London native, is stepping down as coach of the Fijian team. The 44-year-old coached the team for three years after leading the England national sevens team for six years.

MORE: Fiji wins nation’s first Olympic medal