Moscow’s Luzhniki sports complex celebrates 55th birthday.

31/7 Tass 9

MOSCOW, July 31 (Itar-Tass) —— One of Moscow’s major attractions, the legendary Luzhniki sports complex celebrates on Sunday its 55th birthday.

Its story goes back as far as 1956, as a solemn opening ceremony preceded the first Games of the peoples of the USSR. The idea of building the country’s main stadium arose long before that day, but its implementation has prevented by World War II. It was only nine years after it was over that the project was renewed. The sports complex, built in record time – only 450 days – became a real nation-wide construction project.

For more than half a century Luzhniki hosted thousands of major sporting events, including World and European championships in practically all kinds of sports – from ice racing to athletics. The complex’s most festive year was 1980, when it hosted the XXII Summer Olympic Games.

Besides sporting events, Luzhniki become a venue for various recreational activities, including biggest festivals and concerts featuring foreign stars. Every year the complex hosts almost half of all concerts of local and foreign popular singers, held in Moscow. In addition, the Luzhniki can be called also a political arena: in 1989 there were meetings with Boris Yeltsin, and on November 21, 2007 – an election rally for Vladimir Putin.

The sports complex occupies the area of 180 hectares along the picturesque banks of the Moskva River and includes 140 different structures. A large sports arena, housing 80 thousand spectators, is the center of the architectural ensemble. The stadium complies with FIFA and UEFA requirements, it is among five-star European football stadiums, and it has a status of elite. Other major sporting facilities of the complex are the Small Sports Arena with a capacity 8,700 spectators, a swimming pool with seats for eight thousand spectators, the Palace of sports that can accommodate up to 11,500 people. There are football fields, tennis courts, a sports town, and even an area for beach volleyball.

The complex’s territory has many monuments which reflect its history: a monument to the Moscow Olympics, a monument to the UEFA Champions League final. The monument to those who died at stadiums of the world reminds of the most tragic day in the history of Luzhniki – on October 20, 1982 stampede after the match claimed lives of many fans. The Alley of Fame features monuments to outstanding sportsmen of the country – to Nikolai Starostin, Lev Yashin, Eduard Streltsov, etc.

Last summer, during the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Moscow Olympics-80, the Olympic Flame Bowl, dismantled 14 years earlier, was restored. By the way, the Olympic flame in Luzhniki was burning not only during the Olympic Games in 1980, but at the Moscow World Music Festival in 1989, and during the last concert of Viktor Tsoi /popular singer/ in 1990.

But apart from this rich history Luzhniki has ambitious plans for the future. Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that “renewal of the complex has already begun.”

He promised to make a new ice rink, to reconstruct the swimming pool, renovate the main sites. He assured Muscovites and guests that Luzhniki has always been and will be open for anyone who loves sports and health. Sobyanin also spoke about preparations for the World Championship in Athletics due there in 2013.

In late April, the mayor said that the sports complex should belong to the Moscow city government, not an individual. A few days later, Director Vladimir Aleshin quit, and in mid-May prosecutors found numerous violations at the Luzhniki trade complex. City officials decided to cancel the order of 2003, which permitted the sports complex’s use for trade.

A project of reconstruction and renovation of the Olympic complex’s facilities is due by September 1.

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