Grand Arena Of The Central Lenin Stadium At The Luzhniki Olympic Sports Complex


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Although five different stadiums in the whole of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would host football matches during the 1980 Summer Olympic Games, there could never be any doubt as to which one would host the tournament final — as a matter of fact, as the very name of the facility, itself, would elaborately suggest, the massive GRAND ARENA of the CENTRAL LENIN STADIUM at the centralized LUZHNIKI OLYMPIC COMPLEX in the capital city of MOSCOW was built with the very purpose of a major global athletic competition specifically in mind.

The Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium had been, by the time of the Moscow Summer Games, expanded to accomodate an official capacity crowd of 103,000 seated spectators — this increase pushed the Lenin Stadium past the German Democratic Republic’s enormous Zentralstadion in Leipzig, which had actually opened in the exact same year as the Lenin Stadium in 1956, for the honor of largest football ground in all of Europe.

The Luzhniki Olympic Complex, itself, was among the largest of its kind in all the world. According to THE GREAT SOVIET ENCYCLOPEDIA (1979), this de facto athletic city included roughly 140 separate facilities for the pursuit of a multitude of sports. In addition to the the humongous Grand Arena, itself, the facility in the Khamovniki district of Moscow also featured the famed Palace of Sport ice hockey arena with its capacity for 13,700 spectators as well as the Olympic Pool of the Central Lenin Stadium, which seated another 10,500 people.

And then, of course, there was the Minor Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium (8,700 capacity) and the tiny Druzhba Mutlipurpose Arena (3,500 capacity) …

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A panoramic shot of the distinctive Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the Games of the XXII Olympiad, which was held in the crown jewel of the extraordinary Luzhniki complex on the banks of the Moskva River in the Soviet capital city on July 19, 1980.
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The national team of the SOVIET UNION made its international debut at the Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium in front of a reported audience of 102,000 spectators on September 23, 1956. The opponent for this historic match in the U.S.S.R. happened to be none other than HUNGARY, the defending gold medalist from the 1952 Summer Olympic Games and runner-up to champion West Germany at the 1954 FIFA World Cup. The Magic Magyars would prevail over the Soviets 1-0 in Moscow thanks to a goal by ZOLTAN CZIBOR but, a month later, the Hungarian Revolution suddenly errupted and that result would eventually see the Hungary footballers withdraw from the approaching 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.

Despite the inaugural setback, the Soviet national team would continue to stage virtually all of its home matches in the spacious confines of the Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium until the mid-1970s. And this scenic riverside location soon became a nightmare for incoming visitors to Moscow, particularly in FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championships qualification contests. In fact, the U.S.S.R. won 19 consecutive qualifiers at the Lenin Stadium on the trot until Chile finally posted a fateful draw in late September, 1973.

The Soviet Union began holding internationals in other places, most notably the Republican Stadium in the Ukranian city of Kiev, following the ’74 World Cup debacle. Only after experienced Spartak Moscow boss KONSTANTIN BESKOV was re-appointed as the national team trainer did the Soviets return to the Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium in earnest. Nevertheless, the unbeaten streak in tournament play for the U.S.S.R. national team at the impressive site along the Moskva River near the so-called Luzhnetskaya Embankment was still intact when the Games of the XXII Olympiad arrived in the summer of 1980.

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An aerial photograph of the Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium at the Luzhniki Olympic Complex in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ capital city of Moscow that was obviously taken in the era of the 1950s or not long afterwards, certainly well before the floodlights were first installed in the 1960s.

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