Russian schoolkids normally have a pretty tough row to hoe, with a six-day school-week and loads of regular homework, but may be getting a pass during the Sochi Winter Games.
The pro-Kremlin United Russia party appealed to teachers Wednesday to reduce school hours and slash homework assignments for the duration of the Olympics so that children would have more time to watch TV and root for the national team. Last week Russia's Defense Ministry ordered that military personnel be given four free hours a day so that they could watch as well.
"United Russia deputies made a proposal to reduce the volume of homework for children during the 2014 Olympic Games so that children could watch the competition," news agencies quoted Duma deputy Nikolai Bulanov as saying. "The Olympic Games are a great teaching tool for our young people."
In Russia, where education is taken very seriously and Saturday is a school day for kids from junior high on, teachers are seldom willing to loosen the screws.
"It's wonderful that we're going to watch the Olympic Games. We find that children do their best when they're emotionally motivated, and events like the Sochi Games are a great opportunity to encourage them to go in for sports," says Nadezhda Kaskova, a history teacher at Moscow's School No. 1306.
"As a rule I like to encourage my students to go beyond homework, to look for material on the Internet, discuss subjects with their parents, expand their minds by all different means. So, this is good."
According to the official ITAR-Tass agency, almost a third of Russia's entire population – 36.5 million people – watched the ceremony, which was broadcast live on Russia's main state-owned channels.
An International Olympic Committee spokesperson told Russian news agencies Wednesday that the average daily global TV audience for the Sochi Olympics is 8 percent higher than they were for the previous Winter Games, held in Vancouver in 2010, which translates into about 25 million more viewers.
"It's going very well. Nothing has broken down, there have been no political protests, and the athletes are playing their part. The only problem so far is, not enough medals for Russia," says Dmitry Oreshkin, head of the Mercator Group, a Moscow-based media consultancy.
"The Games are doing what they were supposed to do, which is shine a good light on Russia and Putin. So, why not let the schoolchildren and soldiers watch?"