The announcement on Saturday formalized plans that had been in the works to allow approved protests at a park in the Khosta district, about halfway between central Sochi and the Adler district, where the main Olympic Village is.
"Please, everybody, welcome," the president of the Olympic organizing committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, said in an interview in December when asked about the criticism Russia faces on issues like political freedoms, gay rights, and environmental damage caused by the construction in Sochi. "You're free to express those opinions during the Games."
The protest zone, about nine miles from the nearest Olympic site, is similar to three created by the Chinese government during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In China, however, the authorities refused to grant permission for any rallies in the protest zones and instead harassed or arrested those who applied.
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Tanya Lokshina, Russia director at Human Rights Watch, said on Saturday that the easing of the ban was part of Russia's "efforts to convince critics that it's a democracy where freedom of expression is respected within reasonable limits."
"I suggest they shouldn't let themselves be convinced that easily," Ms. Lokshina said.
The restrictions on protests are part of some of the most extensive security measures ever put in place for an international sporting event. The threat of terrorism has been a paramount concern at all Olympic Games, but it has been greater in Sochi because of the simmering Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus, not far away.
Twin suicide bombings that killed at least 34 people last week in Volgograd, about 400 miles northeast of Sochi, raised new fears that followers of the terrorist leader Doku Umarov intended to make good on his threat last summer to disrupt the Games.