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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Putin Wins Patriotic Gold in Sochi

The Sochi Winter Olympics may have cost seven times as much as the Vancouver ones four years ago, but they achieved President Vladimir Putin's goal: Russians, including many of his fiercest opponents on both the liberal and nationalist flanks, are now united in a powerful upsurge of patriotism.

The Sochi Winter Olympics may have cost seven times as much as the Vancouver ones four years ago, but they are achieving President Vladimir Putin's goal: Russians, including many of his fiercest opponents, have united in a powerful upsurge of patriotism.

Skepticism about the mammoth effort was widespread before the games started, with many Russians re-posting the scathing comments of Western journalists on Sochi's lack of preparedness. The tide started to turn just as the Olympics were about to open. "The mass Facebook masochism about the shamefulness, absurdity and nastiness of how everything is organized in Sochi is suddenly terribly irritating," novelist Boris Akunin, one of Putin's most vocal opponents, wrote on Facebook. "Is it really such an unmitigated horror?" he went on to ask. "I swear to God, I am not prepared to live by the principle 'If it's bad for Putin, it's good for us'."