Russian World Cup town demolishes Soviet-era eyesore


One of 11 Russian cities playing host to this summer’s soccer World Cup blew up its most famous landmark on Saturday — a rusty, half-finished Soviet-era television tower.

Construction of the 220-meter (720-foot) concrete structure in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg began in 1983 but was never completed due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

As part of beautifying efforts by Russian cities ahead of the quadrennial football tournament, authorities decided to demolish the tower.

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Ice rink to replace tower

The tower was blown up in several locations around its circumference and directed onto a special soil pad to avoid the spread of debris. The demolition cost around 200 million rubles (€2.8 million, $3.5 million). A new ice rink will be built on the site.

The regional authority’s decision was made last year after officials deemed the tower “disfiguring to the city landscape.”

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Local governor Eugene Kuivashev said in a radio interview, “No one seriously believes that the city needs such a symbol.”

Protest against the demolition of the Yekaterinburg TV tower (picture-alliance/Sputnik/P. Lisitsyn)

Hundreds of residents turned out earlier this week for a protest around the doomed tower

Once the tallest abandoned building in the world, attempts were made to find a new use for the tower. Suggestions included turning the top of the structure into a chapel with a statue of a Russian saint, or converting it into a giant lighthouse.

‘Hug the tower’

Saturday’s demolition wasn’t without public opposition. Many residents and urbanists campaigned for the tower to remain; some even organized a protest earlier this week to “hug the tower.”

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Ivan Volkov, a 39-year-old lawyer and head of a committee opposing the tower’s destruction, said the decision had been made “behind the scenes” without residents’ knowledge.

Destroyed TV tower in Yekaterinburg (picture-alliance/TASS/D. Sorokin)

After its demolition, the remains of the tower will be cleared to make way for the city’s new ice rink

Another resident, Olgo Turova, described the tower as the “pearl” of Yekaterinburg and compared its destruction to the French government deciding to demolish the Eiffel Tower.

The demolition was postponed until after Russia’s recent presidential election because it was thought that protests could aggravate the situation during the race.

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Yekaterinburg — sometimes spelled Ekaterinburg — will host four World Cup matches at its renovated central stadium during the month-long tournament. Other matches will be played in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kaliningrad and Sochi among other cities.

mm/sms (AP, Reuters)