The Olympic rings are reflected in a puddle at the Olympic Park for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, January 30, 2014.
Phil Noble / Courtesy Reuters

Russians love sports. They always have. Like their counterparts in other countries, they believe that athletic prowess reflects national strength. Russians also like television. The country has hundreds of channels, and although young people might reach for their cell phones or laptops in the big cities, as many as 85 percent of Russian citizens still depend on television for their news.

The Olympics, which start today, will bring these two loves together. Across the world, round-the-clock television footage will feature white-knuckle competitions and emotional celebrations in Russia’s staggeringly beautiful Sochi, a resort town ringed by the snow-covered peaks of the Caucasus. Russian President Vladimir Putin will get the chance to show a vast global audience how modern and powerful -- in soft and hard terms -- his country is. He will no doubt be pleased if the foreigners who have questioned Russia’s ability to pull off the games have

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  • ELLEN MICKIEWICZ is James R. Shepley Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Political Science at Duke University. She is the author of the forthcoming book Splinters in Ice: The Internet Life of Russia’s Future Leaders (Oxford University Press).
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