Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service/AP Photo/RIA Novosti
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service/AP Photo/RIA Novosti
Proof that Russia has traveled far from its Soviet-era past was readily available Monday with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's open invitation for Russian Olympic officials to resign after the disappointing showing by Russian athletes in the just completed Vancouver games.
In Stalin's time, for instance, the committee members wouldn't have been invited to resign. They would have just found themselves in labor camps. Or worse.
But as NPR's David Greene reported for All Things Considered Russia's current leaders can still issue a fairly ominous-sounding threat when they want to.
As David reported, Russians used to dominate the winter games:
Russians probably didn't need a reminder that those days are gone. But their president, Dmitri Medvedev, went on television this morning. He congratulated Russian athletes who performed well. But said there were too few of them.
Then he delivered a stern message to officials who oversee Olympic sports in Russia.
"They should make a brave decision and sign a letter of resignation" he said. No specific names but he added a threat. If the officials he has in mind don't resign on their own, he said, "we will help them."
The president also gave Russians a reality check. He said the days of the Soviet school are gone. He was talking about the Soviet Union's rigorous training of young athletes. Critics considered it too rigorous. But it led to years of serious prowess at the winter Olympics. After the Soviet Union's collapse, the president said, Russia has not yet found its own system.
This was a striking admission. Given that Russia's athletes will be in a bigger spotlight in four years. Russia is hosting the winter games in the southern city of Sochi...