Europe

SOCHI SCENE: Russia watches

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian parents and teachers have been given an unusual task by their government: get their kids to watch more TV.

As the Winter Olympics in Sochi stretch into their first full week, members of parliament said Wednesday they'll support an initiative to cut the school day short and encouraged teachers to give their students less homework. The hope: that kids will spend more time watching the games.

The speaker of parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, supported the initiative, which was put forth by a member of the dominant Kremlin-backed party, United Russia. The announcement in parliament followed a statement on Friday from the Ministry of Defense, which said it was revising troops' schedules so that they would have free time to watch live Olympic broadcasts.

School is already out for winter in Sochi, where children will have three weeks of holiday for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The top city education official told Russian journalists that more than 20,000 of Sochi's 54,000 schoolchildren would be participating in events related to the games.

While the country is straggling in the overall medal count, the games have been touted as a way of kick-starting Russia's return to athletic glory by getting more young people interested in sports. When the Russian figure skating team took home the country's only gold medal so far on Sunday, President Vladimir Putin shook hands with all of the athletes but reserved an awkward bear hug for the 15-year-old prodigy Julia Lipnitskaia.

Three leading state-owned channels have been broadcasting the games live, making everything from curling to figure skating required watching for Russian viewers. — By Laura Mills — Twitter https://twitter.com/lauraphylmills

Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu

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