If the vastly expensive and controversy-plagued Sochi winter games were seen outside Russia in a somewhat jaundiced light, the reaction inside Russia was considerably different.
The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, proclaimed the games a success and many Russians felt the vast investment was a fillip to national pride.
“This is the new face of Russia, our Russia,” said Dmitry Chernyshenko, of the Sochi organizing committee.
Indeed, Russia has changed, even as President Vladimir Putin presides over a country with serious problems in the long term, demographically and economically. The authoritarian government in the Kremlin is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
But a great heritage of Russian history allowed ordinary Russians to celebrate, including the closing ceremonies that celebrated everything from the gold medals won by their athletes to the music of Rachmaninoff and the dancers of the Bolshoi.
Such world-famous images puts a pretty face on Putin’s Russia. Yet, we hope and pray that the Russia that has the potential for greatness on the world stage can mature beyond its current ex-KGB leader and fulfill the dreams of greatness of Russian patriots of old.