We can’t go a day without reading something in the red tops about the impending London Olympics -- will the Tube system grind to a halt? How will the UK fare in the medals? Will we be paying back the cost of the Games into our dotage? But these issues pale in comparison to the 1980 Moscow Olympics...
The Moscow Games were the first to be staged in Eastern Europe, and were boycotted by the US and many other countries -- in fact, only 80 out of 147 nations competed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Soviet athletes romped home with 195 medals, 80 of which glittered gold.
And over 30 years later, the Moscow Games are still hitting the headlines. Runner Allan Wells recently wrote about the British government’s attempt to persuade him to boycott the Moscow Games by sending him a package containing an image of a dead child.
"The letter had words to the effect that this is what the Soviet army are doing in Afghanistan," he says. "It was a truly horrific picture and that is why I will never, or can never, forget it."
A lot has changed since 1980... So where’s best to visit on an Olympic-themed trip to Russia? The majority of events were held in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium, which offers tours around the Olympic complex and its parks and gardens. There is also a Sports Museum on the site with a collection of trophies and sporting memorabilia.
Other events were held in St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), with its labyrinthine canals and baroque architecture, as well as some Eastern European cities that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, such as the medieval city of Tallinn in Estonia, and Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Also consider Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held. Known as “the pearl of the Russian Riviera”, Sochi lies on the Black Sea coast and in Soviet times was a very proletarian spa town. Dilapidated sanatoriums still remain as a reminder of those days, but the city is undergoing a facelift and is now Russia’s busiest seaside resort. Visit in June, says Lonely Planet.Previous Olympic host city posts: