The Moscow Olympic Games changed the face of Tallinn forever

In Tallinn, there are still prominent reminders of developments made to host the sailing disciplines of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The city received 200 million rubles in addition to the budget to create the Tallinn Olympic Yachting Center.

After the decision was made that the sailing disciplines of the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980 were to be held in Pirita, projects were immidiately developed to make the city a host and representative for the Soviet Union.

In five years, more than 50 projects were developed in Tallinn. The TV-tower, port terminal, Hotel Olümpia and Tallinn Airport were all developed with money from the ministries of the Soviet Union.

"The Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design opened two days before the sailing disciplines began in Pirita and the next day the Olympic flame was formally received in the Town Hall Square," said architectural historian Karin Hallas-Murula. "And I have a personal memory working at the Ministry of Culture as a young girl. I was the one who held the plate with scissors and I remember there were two pairs of scissors just in case. And that's exactly what happened, the first pair just wouldn't cut through."

The budget also allowed for plenty of elegant restaurants, cultural objects, and museums to be built or renovated. 436 house facades were renovated around Tallinn.

 "It was done rather randomly: the paint we had in the warehouse was used. No surveys or research was done," added Hallas-Murula.

Thanks to a innovative seabed collector, Tallinn bay was cleaned, and the people of Pirita and Viimsi got an adequate road home with a fortified shoreline.

The decision to hold the Olympics in Moscow and the sailing disciplines in Tallinn was made in 1974. By then the architectural competition had already been held. The competition was won by a group of young architects who had just graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts, led by Avo-Himm Looveer.

"There were moments where the right to project was going to slip on, how to say, very unethical purposes. The bureau who received second place decided that they would introduce their project in Moscow before the city of Tallinn had made a decision, so that their project could not be pushed back by Tallinn," said Hallas-Murula.

That plan was eventually nixed and with additional contestsm architects from Eesti Projekt, led by Henno Sepmann, were added to the project group.

Every Estonian was able to work on preparations for the Olympics, for example schoolgirls from Viljandi were assigned to clean windows in Tallinn. They were wearing their finest clothes - they got the chance to go to the capital.

In protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, 66 invited countries did not participate in the Olympic Games, most notably the United States after president Jimmy Carter received support from the United States Olympic Committee to boycott the Games.

Eventually, only 23 countries took part in the regatta, with representatives from Brazil, Finland, Spain, Denmark and the Soviet Union winning gold in six disciplines.

Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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