Letter from Moscow: Hot in the City
27 June 2013
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We arrived in Moscow at the start of a heatwave; temperatures on Thursday reached 31c with high humidity, and in a city of over 10 million people it gets very oppressive. The heat is forecast to last another week or so with some thunderstorms, which makes me wonder which countries might benefit that are taking part in the Rugby Sevens World Cup this weekend.
This is my first visit to Russia, my knowledge of the country influenced to a large degree by the pre-glasnost days of Breshnev. Andropov and Chernenko followed by the more enlightened leadership of Gorbachev. These were all typified by the restrictions and rationing of the Communist regime and and the generally grey view broadcast on the news of the time.
The taxi ride from the airport did little to change my memories in terms of the infrastructure but the cars had changed from the Ladas and Zils of the 70s to the same BMWs, Lexus’, Audis and four-wheel drives you see in any other major European city. Then as we neared downtown Moscow the monolithic buildings of the Stalin era were complemented by modern office tower blocks and hotels that soar into the sky showing that there is a new era of confidence and wealth in the country,
We did the sightseeing bit taking in a bus tour but I wanted to see Red Square, the Kremlin walls and Lenin’s Tomb from where the Politburo used to watch the Red Army march past with tanks and missiles in an annual show of strength during the Cold War. We then went to the famous GUM store where once only the privileged and those with US dollars could shop, but now it is full of boutiques with Prada, Armani and Gucci prevalent. Moscow is now a modern city on a par with the other great capitals of Europe.
While travelling around Moscow I saw nothing about the three day long Rugby Sevens World Cup being held in the city, not even any other supporters. On Friday I will be going to the Lushniki Stadium for the first day games and I hope that there will be more interest and enthusiasm for the newest Olympic Sport.