Luzhniki Stadium for major renovation after World Champs

Luzhniki Stadium for major renovation after World Champs

Monday, August 05, 2013

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MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — The World Athletics Championships will be the last major event staged at Russia's top sports venue -- Moscow's Luzhniki arena — before it shuts down for several years to undergo a complete renovation for the 2018 football World Cup.

Event organisers have already renewed the field, tracks and jumping sectors at the 84,745-capacity arena for the August 10-18 championships.

The improvements are just the first step in the total reconstruction of the stadium, which is remembered fondly by Muscovites as the centrepiece of the 1980 Moscow Olympics -- the biggest sporting event in the history of the Soviet Union.

"The arena, which is also a historic monument, will not be demolished. But it's also impossible to leave it as it is because it doesn't fit the strict FIFA demands for World Cup venues," Moscow's chief architect Sergei Kuznetsov told AFP.

"But the outward appearance of the venue will not be seriously changed, to keep this historic memory of the nation alive."

Russian athletes tested the facilities during their national championships in July and all said they were satisfied with the new surface.

"The arena is just amazing. It's a bomb!" Maria Abakumova, the 2008 Olympic silver medallist and reigning world champion in women's javelin, said after winning the national title.

"The sector is very good. We can expect serious results here at the worlds," women's long jump champion Lyudmila Kolchanova added.

The decision to construct the riverside sports centre was taken at the height of the Cold War in December 1954 and it was officially opened on July 31, 1956.

The construction of Luzhniki became a true "people's construction site" as crowds of Muscovites came to work at the construction site for free at weekends to speed up the work. It took just 450 days to build.

An impressive set of other sporting venues, including an ice palace, swimming pool and tennis courts were also constructed.

This turned the territory of what used to resemble a country village -- mostly famous for its huge puddles and bogs -- into a modern sport city.

Since that time the main arena -- which is also the home of Russian football giants Spartak Moscow -- hosted more than 3,000 official football matches, including the 1999 UEFA Cup final and the 2008 Champions League final.

Luzhniki also staged world championships in ice hockey (1957), modern pentathlon (1961) and speed skating (1962).

Matches for the Rugby Sevens World Cup also took place at the stadium this year and it will host the opening and final match of the 2018 Football World Cup.

The arena underwent a complete renovation in 1995, when its stands were equipped with individual plastic seats and a special roof was constructed to protect the spectators from rain and snow.

"The renovation of the arena will begin right after the end of the athletics championships," said the stadium's deputy general director, Boris Megrelidze.

"We're planning the capacity of around 88,000 seats after the reconstruction. It's the FIFA demand and we shall adhere to it unconditionally."

The arena should be reopened in 2017 to host matches for the Confederations Cup, the traditional dress rehearsal for the World Cup.

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