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

Men’s Curling Night 5: Japan routs USA

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On a night like Saturday, there’s very few teams who could defeat Japan. Unfortunately, Team USA was the one who had to go up against them.

Japan held John Shuster’s team to just two points in seven ends of play in an 8-2 rout of the Americans.

Both teams were tied for fourth in the team standings heading into the game. The U.S. falls to 2-3, now tied for fifth. Japan improves to 3-2, tied for third overall.

Click here for a full recap from tonight’s curling action

Other results: 
NOR def. DEN 10-8
SUI def. CAN 8-6
Current Team Standings:
1. Sweden 5-0
2. Canada 4-2
3. Switzerland 4-2
4. Japan 3-2
5. USA 2-3
6. Great Britain 2-3
7. Italy 2-3
8. Norway 2-3
9. Denmark 1-4
10. Korea 1-4

Marcel Hirscher leads GS; defending champ Ted Ligety trails

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Austria’s Marcel Hirscher leads by a commanding .63 seconds after the first of two giant slalom runs at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Hirscher, the reigning giant slalom world champion, is in position to win his second gold medal in PyeongChang, after claiming the combined title.

American Ted Ligety, who is nicknamed “Mr. GS,” is a distant 2.44 seconds behind Hirscher.

“I just sucked,” Ligety said on NBC.

Ligety is hoping to become the first man to successfully defend an Olympic giant slalom gold medal since Italy’s Alberto Tomba in 1992.

Standings after the first run

1. Marcel Hirscher (Austria)
2. Alexis Pinturault (France) +.63 seconds
3. Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen (Norway) +.66 seconds
4. Riccardo Tonetti (Italy) +.75 seconds
5. Mathieu Faivre (France) +.79 seconds