History of the Luzhniki Sports Complex


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On 23 December 1954 the USSR Government decided on the construction of a large stadium in Moscow on the territory of the Luzhniki area. The decision was driven by the existing international situation.

By the beginning of the 1950s the Soviet sportsmen had entered the world arena and took part in the Olympic Games for the first time after the War.

The Soviet National Team gained 71 medals (including 22 gold medals) and shared with American athletes the first and the second places in unofficial team scoring at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. It was a major success. Further build-up of athletic capacity was dictated by political reasons and demanded construction of a new sports complex. The new sports facility was expected to meet all modern world standards and serve a training ground for the national team and an arena for large national and international competitions.

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The first challenge faced by structural designers (architects including I. Rozhin, N. Ullas, A. Khryakov under the guidance of A. Vlasov, engineers V. Nasonov, N. Reznikov, V. Polikarpov) was location. The task was to find a quite vast plot of land, preferably in a green area but not far from the city centre which, among other things, could fit well into the Moscow transport map.

On a sunny spring day of 1954 a group of architects and engineers who were in charge of designing the Central stadium went up a vast paved platform on Lenin Hills. (…) No doubt was left. There was no better place other than Luzhniki to choose as a building ground for future stadium. The scene suggested itself. The close proximity of the river, vast green territory, clean and fresh air, factors sufficient to decide on the site of the sports city. Besides, the Luzhniki area is located comparatively close to the centre of the city and conveniently connected with the city’s districts by access ways.

I visualised the layout of the stadium, the Central sports arena, swimming pool, playing grounds. I fancied the roaring of the stadium, the shooting of a starting pistol, splashing greenish water, tough kicks on the ball. () I took out a sheet of paper out of my folder and there, leaning on the baluster made some sketches of future facilities. Someone looked over my shoulder and declaimed ‘Let there be a city. A huge one, I exclaimed, a city of sports! (V. Polikarpov The major stadium of the country).

So, according to the governments decision, sports city design works were initiated in Luzhniki in Janury 1955. The design was ready over ninety days, construction began in the spring of 1955. The Moscow Central Stadium (it was known under this name at that time) was being built literally by virtue of nation-wide efforts.

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Volunteers streamed to Luzhniki from throughout the country. Construction materials were supplied from Leningrad and Armenia, electrical equipment and oak for spectators benches came from Ukraine, furniture came from Riga and Kaunas, glass was supplied from Minsk, electrical wire came from Podolsk, larch from Irkutsk. They had to demolish a whole area with time-worn buildings (including the Trinity church which is now expected to be reconstructed).

Because of the heavy marshiness of the land in the building area, they had to raise the building site a half metre. Ten thousand piles were driven into the land and about three million cubic metres of soil were used through dredges to raise the site.

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On 31 July 1956 Moscow saw a grand opening of the Central stadium that was built in record-breaking time in 450 days. At that time the Moscow Central stadium included the Grand Sports Arena, the Small Sports Arena, the Palace of Sports, the Swimming Pool and a number of outdoor sports grounds. Those facilities enabled to host competitions and trainings in 18-20 kinds of sports from track-and-field events to hockey.

The exploitation of the stadium was initially deemed practical in three main areas, for large world and local competitions, for trainings of the national team and for mass sports development. In all three areas there has been made considerable progress.

The Luzhniki sports fields and grounds witnessed seven Spartakiada Games of the Peoples of the USSR, world and European championships in hockey, basketball, volleyball, artistic gymnastics, sambo, martial arts and other sports.

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The Luzhniki Complex also hosted the Youth and Students Festival, Goodwill Games, World Youth Games and the 1980 Summer Olympics. Actually, the Spartakiada Games of the Peoples of the USSR were made possible only after the construction of the Luzhniki Complex. (The First Spartakiada Games were held within a few days after the opening of the stadium). The Spartakiada Games that were the world largest sports competition at that time exceeded the Olympic Games in number of kinds of sports and participants.

The Spartakiada Games played significant role in the development of the Soviet sport. They used to be held in the year preceding the Olympics and largely determined the composition of the Olympic national team. Sixteen out of seventeen players of the picked football team of Moscow which won the First Spartakiada Championship title later joined the USSR Olympic team which later on won the gold medal at the Olympics in Melbourne. Lev Yashin, Anatoly Bashashkin, Nikita Simonyan, Eduard Streltsov repeatedly mentioned that their journey to victory started in Luzhniki.

The Luzhniki Complex ignited also a breakthrough in the Soviet popular sports. In 1957 Luzhniki saw the appearance of overall physical training groups. These groups experience served instrumental for further development of health promoting activities for middle- aged and elderly people which was later promoted throughout the country. The newly promoted keep-fit programmes were developed by the Luzhniki training specialists cooperatively with the members of the Central Research Institute of Physical Culture. In July 1957 Luzhniki saw the opening of the Sports (Childrens) Area which accommodated groups and classes for children and hosted competitions for schoolchildren. From 1958 Luzhniki housed the famous Youth Football School which paved the way to the world of great sports achievements. Among those achievers were Valery Voronin, Gennady Gusarov, Igor Chislenko, Vladimir Fedotov, Gennady Logofet, Viktor Anichkin, Mikhail Gershkovich. Among Youth Football School coaches were at various times Konstantin Beskov, Nikolai Nikitin, Viktor Lakhonin. In 1962 the Luzhniki stadium was the first sports facility to house scoliosis treatment groups for children. Treatment programmes included swimming classes and gymnastics trainings.

Another area of activities carried out at Luzhniki is concert hosting which until recently was supplemental to the core activities. In 1990 Luzhniki hosted the first Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper festival. Since then each summer Luzhniki has hosted social and entertainment events such as City Day, Sportsman Day, Festival of Sports Moscow City Games and other. During the festive days the whole territory of the Luzhniki Complex turns into recreation and entertainment area.

Luzhniki is the largest concert ground in Russia. At various times Luzhniki hosted concerts of Rolling Stones, Rammstein, Pet Shop Boys, Moby, DDT, Splin and many other