The buzz post-Olympics usually centres on the athletes, their achievements and the tirade of endorsement campaigns that inevitably follow. But what about the structures that house these magnificent quadrennial events? Often the stadiums and swimming pools have been purpose-built, but post-event many remain unused, abandoned or unimaginatively repurposed.
In a similar vein to Jamie McGregor’s series of the abandoned sites for the 2004 Athens Olympics, Russian photographer Anastasia Tsayder’s Summer Olympics captures the heritage of the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the way the buildings fit into the landscape 30 years later.
As the first Eastern Bloc capital to hold the Olympics, there was much controversy surrounding these games with 65 countries boycotting the event completely due to a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. To the USSR it was their chance to prove the superiority of a Socialist regime and so the 90 purpose-built Olympic buildings they developed were said to be beacons of optimism for a brighter future and display the power of the Soviet State.
The buildings remain a stoic reminder of Russia’s communist past, unwilling to blend into Moscow’s cityscape. The scale Anastasia has managed to capture in her images is wonderful. Tiny children practise diving in colossal swimming pools and learn dance in halls that are still enormous despite being curtained off in swathes of coloured fabric.
Vast and grey, the empty buildings have a fallen majesty about them and it’s clear when looking through the series, crowds are what make these spaces come alive. The 1980 Moscow Olympics games has long shed its concrete skin, but Anastasia’s beautiful images remind us of how the Soviet Union once was.