Olympic Moscow with Radio Sputnik
Journeys | 22.07.2020
An unprecedented event took place from July 19 to August 3, 1980. For the first time in history, a socialist country hosted the Olympics. For the 40thanniversary of the XXII Summer Games in the USSR, together with Radio Sputnik we prepared a guide to the Olympic Moscow.

We offer to take a look at 11 structures that are still properly operating. And at the same time to find out: by what principle the places demolished for construction were chosen, what innovations were used in the construction and for the internals of the facilities.

The bonus of the guidebook are the stories about a flying horse and a motor home, about the Olympic menu and champagne on the lawns; about how the athlete almost died during the competition and how the Americans appeared at the opening of the Games – despite the fact that the United States kept repeating: "We are not there".
Cover photo ©RIA novosti Vladimir Akimov
The main press center of the Olympics-80
The main press center of the Olympics-80: Zubovsky Boulevard, 4. It was commissioned in 1979. A six-story building in the style of brutalism. Its area is 30,000 m². Currently, it houses the International News Agency "Russia Today".

Workshops, several conference rooms and a cinema and concert venue for 780 seats were arranged at the Olympic Press Center. Six floors on concrete piles – this is not the whole structure. It goes 12 m deep. The main difficulty during the construction was the abundance of groundwater due to the proximity of the Moscow River (there is less than a kilometer from the press center to the embankment). Water had to be constantly pumped out. As a result, the building was equipped with deep basements, where pumps were installed, as well as equipment for air conditioning and power supply systems.
© RIA novosti Ter-Mesropjan
After the Olympics, the press center was handed over to the Novosti Press Agency, and rumors were spread about the cellars that scouts worked there under the guise of journalists.

In July 1980, Moscow was waiting for journalists from 140 countries. Due to the boycott, the number of countries participating in the Games almost halved. As a result, 5,391 journalists received accreditation, including 2,514 article writers. On August 3, they all reported that 36 world and 74 Olympic records were set at the Olympics that ended in the USSR.
© RIA novosti Vladimir Akimov
Equestrian Complex "Bitsa"
46 hectares in the south-east of Moscow near the Bitsa forest park were freed for construction (it occupies 2,200 hectares and is the second largest after Losiny Ostrov park). The territory was almost rural, sparsely populated and quiet. The noise of the city was not heard, the animals – participants of the Olympics – were not scared. They allocated a large forest zone for horseback riding.

Equestrian sport has no gender differences. Men and women compete on an equal footing. Equal athletes are horses. Their nicknames are recorded next to the names of the riders, and they also undergo doping control.

In Bitsa, competitions were held in all three Olympic types of equestrian sports: dressage (manege riding), show jumping and cross country running. An exception was made for the spectacular competition "Big prize in show jumping". He was held at the Grand Sports Arena in Luzhniki.
© RIA novosti Valerij Shustov
6 sets of awards were disposed of in individual and team championships. Soviet horsemen won all team tournaments and not a single individual gold medal. (After the Olympics-80, they never won the highest awards).

The audience behaved emotionally at the competitions in Bitza. Sometimes it disturbed the animals. During the performance of the Soviet rider Vera Misevich, her horse, named Plot, was frightened of applause and refused to make a pirouette. The announcer had to announce the stadium so that the audience stopped clapping. Plot calmed down, completed the perfect pirouette and fiished the mandatory program with a high result: 1,254 points.

There was also an accident in Bitza. During triathlon at the horse races in the forest, one of the horses fell into the pit. It was pulled out with a truck crane. The name of that horse remained unknown, because it fell out of the race. The history of the Olympic movement includes only three triathlon winners. They were the Italian horse Rocinante and two Soviet horses: Galzun and Pintset.
© RIA novosti Grigorij Sobchenko
Olympic Stadium (Olimpiyskiy) – indoor stadium and swimming pool
Until the mid-1970s, this part of the city resembled a village. They cleared a vast territory – demolished the old stadium and everything nearby: an experimental chemical and metallurgical plant, Voskhod paper mill, and residential buildings on three lanes (mostly wooden). Two oval buildings (40 m high) were erected at this place: a giant stadium (35,000 seats) and three pools under one roof in the shape of a concave wave (15,000 seats). For 37 years, Olimpiyskiy remained the largest indoor stadium in Europe. Its coverage area is 33,000 m² (5 football fields).

Novelty of the stadium was a designed partition an 8-storey building high. It consisted of 26 panels, was assembled in 2.5 hours and, if necessary, blocked the arena along the long axis: it was possible to conduct different competitions in two parts at the same time. Basketball matches and boxing fights were held this way at the Olympics-80. Athletes and spectators of different sections did not interfere with each other.
© RIA novosti Pahomov
In the building of the Olimpiyskiy pool, competitions were held in swimming, water polo and diving. Its internals were made strictly according to the Olympic standards. Training and demonstration pools (the size of each is 50x25, depth – 2.2 m), separate swimming pool for jumping (length – 25 m, depth – 6 m). The jumping and swimming sectors were divided by an acoustic glass partition. This made it possible to compete simultaneously in different sectors.

One of the days of the Olympics, a dramatic event occurred when they forgot to lower the partition. In the jumping pool, Alexandr Portnov made another attempt to jump from a 3-meter diving tower. At the same time, swimmer Vladimir Salnikov went for a record on the lane of the swimming pool: the stands roared, everyone was excited (including technical staff), the noise did not allow jumpers to concentrate. Salnikov captured the gold and set a record at the same time: he was the first in the world to swim 1,500 m freestyle in 14 minutes 58.27 seconds. But Portnov also became an Olympic champion. He was allowed to repeat the thwarted attempt, and he improved his result. By the way, the jumper from the GDR was also given a second attempt – he jumped from a 10-meter diving tower also without the partition. It was Falk Hoffman. His extra jump was a gold medal jump in his discipline.

Everyone said that the water in the Olympic pools was special. Even experts called it "fast water". In this water, 12 Olympic records, 49 world records and 42 European records were set.
© RIA novosti Ruslan Krivobok
The large sports arena of the Luzhniki Olympic Complex
Before renaming in 1992, it was the Central Stadium named after V. I. Lenin: the main sports facility in the USSR. The stadium owes its appearance to the Olympics. But not the Moscow Olympics, but summer Helsinki Olympics. It was held in 1952. Soviet athletes won 71 medals in it. After that, it was decided to build a world-class sports complex in Moscow.

The opening was marked by a striking incident. It was caused by two spectators in the grandstands – US citizens: one of the 65 countries that announced a boycott of the Olympics in the USSR. In protest against non-participation of the Americans in the Games, Dan and Nick unfurled the US flag. At the time, there were 103,000 people in the stadium. Everyone began to applaud. It was known that President Jimmy Carter could not ban ordinary Americans from going to the Olympics in Moscow. But he categorically forbade to display the American flag.
© RIA novosti Vladimir Rodionov
The strongest episode of the closing of the Games was the crying Olympic Bear. The symbol of the Olympics was represented by a "live screen" – dozens of extras on the stand with colorful shields in their hands. At the rehearsal, one of them did not hear the command and instead of the painted side of the shield opened the white inside. The "hole" fell under the bear's eye. The director of the ceremony liked this. He asked the extras to turn over the shields each after each, and a "tear flew".

From July 19 to August 3, Luzhniki hosted competitions in athletics, volleyball, water polo, equestrian sports, judo and football. The territory of the complex was not empty day or night. Dozens of summer cafes were built around sports facilities. It was strictly forbidden to sell and drink alcohol. Nevertheless, champagne flew like water. After each medal won, people popped corks out of bottles on the lawns, clanged glasses and shouted "bravo!". The police did not interfere.
© RIA novosti Vladimir Rodionov
Olympic Village
The sports area with the adjacent Olympic Park occupied 85 hectares and stretched for a kilometer along Michurinsky Prospekt. For its construction, a village near Moscow was demolished. The main sports facilities of the Games – the Luzhniki Stadium and the Olympic Stadium – are 15 minutes away from here.

Unlike the villages of all the previous Olympics, the one in Moscow was initially planned as a full-fledged urban microdistrict: residential buildings, schools, kindergartens, a hospital, shops, a telephone exchange, and places for recreation. Six months after the closing of the Games, 14,500 Muscovites became new settlers of the Olimpiyka (as the residents called their district).
© RIA novosti Boris Babanov
The main place among the buildings was taken by the Sports Complex. There was an indoor pool with three bathtubs of different lengths and depths and three gyms with the most modern equipment: gymnastic, game and universal (including wrestling and boxing). All rooms were connected by internal passages, equipped with showers and saunas.

The official menu of the Moscow Olympics was approved in 1977: 360 main dishes and 100 appetizers. The cooks of the "Olympiyka" took into account the peculiarities of various national cuisines. Nobody refused Russian cuisine. The breakfast menu, for example, included sturgeon with mayonnaise, grilled venison, fried turkey meat, broth and grilled sausages. For dessert, rice pudding with fruit sauce.
© RIA novosti Vitalij Arutjunov
Cosmos Hotel
It was the first semicircular building in Moscow with high-tech metal cladding. Its area is 300,000 m², including a covered area for cars and buses. Its height with a spire is 103 m, the length of the internal arc is 175 m. There are 28 floors (25 residential ones). From the top, a panorama opens to the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy, the Alley of Cosmonauts (between the South and North entrances) and the 107-meter Monument to the Conquerors of Space. The name of the hotel emphasized an important space theme for the USSR.

At the official opening of the hotel, performed pop stars of the time from France and the USSR: Joe Dassin and Alla Pugacheva.
© RIA novosti Grigorij Sysoev
Cosmos is not one of the structures that are interesting to be inspected from all sides. The back of the building looks like a barrel. Because of the shape of the facade and the abundance of glass on it, it was nicknamed "Half a Glass". In accordance with the first function – to receive foreign guests of the Moscow Olympics – at first only foreigners lived in Cosmos. For Moscow black marketeers, this was another "foreign point". They hung around "Half a Glass", exchanged imported goods with "exotic" Soviet goods from guests of the capital, then sold the deficit to the Muscovites at bloated prices. They took everything given to them: chewing gum, jeans, cigarettes and drinks. Russian hats called "ushanka" and badges were quick-exchanging items.

Ordinary Soviet citizens were not allowed to enter Cosmos. But some black marketeers were able to disguise themselves as foreigners. The following trick worked best. Whatever the season, put on an ushanka studded with badges. Tie your ears under the chin (Soviet people usually do not). Hang a case of a foreign camera over your shoulder. The main thing is to smile radiantly.
© RIA novosti M. Barabanov
More places for walking in the Olympic Moscow in the Radio Sputnik guide.
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