Among the remaining contenders for the 2012 Olympics, Moscow was the most recent host to the games. Political tensions overshadowed the 1980 Olympics, as most Western nations boycotted them. The desire to hold a full-fledged Olympics has been cited by Russian officials as a major stimulus to the current bid. The sporting events of 1980 also left a wide-ranging infrastructure in place that will contribute the essential components in 2012.

During the formal bid presentation in November, the plan outlined a vision of a compact Olympic quarter, located entirely within the city limits. Most venues are spread out in five complexes within the radius of about 6 miles along the sinuous Moskva (Moscow) River. A group of planners and architects from Studio #2 of Mosproekt-4 Institute is responsible for the concept. The river contributes not only the spatial axis to the scheme, but also serves as the main transportation artery, where spectators can be ferried to sites from 70 passenger piers. The so-called “Olympic River Concept” is also an effort to showcase the city. The Moskva meanders for about 45 miles from the northwest to the southeast of the city, unfolding along the historic center around the Kremlin to the edifices of the Soviet period.

Another selling point of Moscow’s bid is the readiness of more than two thirds of the necessary infrastructure. As in the 1980 Olympics, the Luzhniki Olympic Complex and its Olympic Park will be at the core of the games, hosting opening and closing ceremonies and many sporting events. The structure of the Luzhniki Stadium was built in 1957 and renovated in 1979 and 2000. Major additions are planned from 2009 to 2011. A number of complexes built for the 1980 games will be refurbished, including the Krylatskoe
racetrack and the CSKA soccer/track-and-field stadium.

While new venues will go up in the Tushino area of Moscow, the single most ambitious new project includes a planned set of buildings for the Olympic Village, media hub, and press center. This gleaming complex, each building with a terracelike descent toward the river, will rise in the northwest of Moscow at a cost of more than $500 million.

The financial estimate for the games is a modest $2.5 billion. Planners tout Moscow’s experience with major sporting events and the value of holding the games in the “New Russia.” 2012 will also mark the hundredth anniversary of Russia’s participation in the Olympics. It is only ironic that IOC inspectors are unlikely to experience the vital “Olympic River Concept” during their planned February visit. The waterways are likely to be barely navigable, covered in snow and ice.