Tallinn and the 1980 Moscow Olympics

In 1974 the Soviet Union won the bid to become the host of the 1980 Summer Olympics. As its host city Moscow is miles inland there was a search for a suitable location to host the sailing events. As Estonia was at that time under Soviet occupation the city of Tallinn was chosen.

The 1980 Olympics saw a number of problems including many countries and participants choosing to boycott the event and not attend, due to the Soviet Unions invasion of Afghanistan. Led by the United States many other countries chose to boycott the games, others claimed financial reasons. It total sixty-five invited countries did not attend the Moscow Olympics.

Tallinn and the 1980 Moscow Olympics

The Soviet Union invested over 200 million rubles into the city of Tallinn in the years leading up to the event. The TV tower, Hotel Olümpia and the airport were built and developed as well as the Tallinn Olympic Yachting Center in Pritia where the event would be held. There was also a budget for arts and culture, restaurants and museums were built or renovated. 436 houses were randomly painted and renovated around the city and Tallinn’s historical old town was given a makeover.

Tallinn saw great change during the lead up to the event and many of those changes can still be found in the city today.

Hotel Olümpia

Tallinn and the 1980 Moscow Olympics - Hotel Olümpia

Hotel Olümpia began construction in 1974 and took six years to build. There are 390 rooms including a presidential suite and a number of recently renovated conference rooms. The building is 84m tall, 10m taller than the nearby Sokos Hotel Viru, with the name of the hotel in large letters on top. The 26th floor features a fitness club with its very own swimming pool.

Tallinn Olympic Yachting Centre

Hotel Olümpia is now operated by Radisson Blu.

Tallinn Olympic Yachting Center

Tallinn and the 1980 Moscow Olympics

Once Tallinn was chosen to host the sailing event a location was picked in Pirita, a neighbourhood three miles from the city centre. The Tallinn Olympic Yachting Center was constructed over four years and opened in 1980 in time to host its first guests. It was the home for the competitors for the time they were in the city.

Tallinn and the 1980 Moscow Olympics

Currently the building is home to Pirita Marina Hotel and Spa and several sports clubs, as well as a cafe that looks over the marina and a casino.

Since 1997 the building has been under protection as architectural heritage of Estonia.

The V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports

Now the culture and sports venue goes by the name Linnahall and has been out of use since 2009. The design was from architects Raine Karp and Riina Altmäe. The building was completed and opened in 1980 with the name V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports. Under its concrete and limestone form the building held a 4,200 seat amphitheater, an ice hall, an exhibition space and dance hall. The building was specifically designed so it didn’t interrupt views of Tallinn’s old town from the sea.

Though the building wasn’t used during the Olympics it was part of the development that took place in Tallinn in the years leading up to the games.

Tallinn and the 1980 Moscow Olympics - Linnahall

Linnahall has heritage protection for its cultural significance but its future remains uncertain as the city searches for investment.

TV Tower

Tallinn and the 1980 Moscow Olympics - TV Tower

Tallinn’s TV Tower was built to provide better telecommunications for the coverage of the Olympics. It stands 314m tall in a location approximately 5 miles from Tallinn’s city centre, also in the district of Pirita. It was originally designed to have a rotating observation deck on the 21st floor.

The TV Tower played an important role in Estonia’s independence in 1991 when several operators risked their lives to protect the free media of the newly formed republic.

Tallinn Olympic Yachting Centre

Further reading:

I have covered Linnahall in great detail and released a collection of my photographs in a small zine titled BRUTAL II.

The Moscow Olympic Games changed the face of Tallinn forever.

The Tallinn Collector has a fantastic collection of photographs and memorabilia from the 1980 Moscow Olympics in Tallinn.

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