February 14

Sally Jenkins’s Feb. 8 front-page column, “ A heart-seizing place of deep complexities, ” on the Winter Olympics, was unfair and naive. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia began a difficult transition from a centrally planned economy to a market-based, globally integrated one . Thus, it should come as no surprise that there are wide income disparities among the Russian people. President Vladimir Putin may be an overbearing dictator in Western eyes, but the Russian people need and want a strong leader during this transition.

Just after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, I traveled extensively throughout that region while working for USAID. Doctors were working as drivers, PhDs were working as janitors and, in general, the people were scared. They knew what to expect under the Soviet system: an apartment, food, education, medical care and enough vodka, but they had no idea how the transition would affect their lives.

Jenkins should cut Russian leaders and their people some slack and let them enjoy their time in the sun and snow. To describe the host city as a “sweet center of this rotten event” is way over the top. Get in the spirit of the Olympic Games as the rest of the world has.

Mark A. Smith, Williamsburg

Regarding the Feb. 8 front-page article “Games open with dazzling spectacle ”:

The Post may have been so overwhelmed by the avalanche of sensory stimuli at the Opening Ceremonies in Sochi, Russia, that it missed that the disembodied hand of a peasant woman was most likely not holding a scythe but a sickle. That it was a sickle can be surmised because symbolically, the sickle is — in the communist and former Soviet Union’s emblem — the companion implement to the hammer, like the one carried in Sochi by the disembodied hand of a male worker.

Vladimir N. Pregelj, Washington

Sally Jenkins gave us her perspective of the Olympics’ opening event, which was viewed by millions. Her bottom line was jarring negativity (“an act of destructive grandiosity”) for a country that rolled out an exquisite extravaganza worthy of the pride of its citizenry. If Secretary of State John F. Kerry needs diplomatic help with Russia, he should not call on Jenkins.

Jenkins belabored the obvious by contrasting the Sochi preparations with what the world knows well as the harsh reality in most of Russia — even to the point of labeling the Olympics as “this rotten event.” Wouldn’t it have been better to praise the effort by so many for millions who maybe crave a few moments to bask in the light of their country’s impressive accomplishment? 

Vladimir Putin is no prize, and, yes, there are issues. But let’s give credit where it is due and, in the process, perhaps, win a few million hearts. The Olympic spirit, no?  

John Doran, Severna Park

Please stop posting winning results on the washingtonpost.com homepage prior to the airing of prime-time coverage on NBC. I am trying to avoid looking at results, but I still want and need to read other sections of The Post online, such as the weather, politics and world news. The posting of results is infuriating.

Can The Post please use spoiler alerts or at least make someone click to get results? I went to the Web site Wednesday afternoon to read weather updates and saw this: “U.S.’s Farrington wins gold in halfpipe.” There was no way to avoid seeing this result. Thanks to The Post for ruining my evening ritual.

Kay J. Moyer, Arlington