2013 Moscow Diary: MOSCOW 2013 - column 3, LOOKING BACK: MOSCOW AND THE 1980 OLYMPICS, 3. FUN AND GAMES IN MOSCOW by James Dunaway

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This is James Dunaway's third column for our Moscow Diary. This one is about his experience as one of the few Americans at the Moscow Olympics. Dunawa is writing his experiences surrounding the 1980 Olympics...


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MOSCOW 2013 - column 3
 
LOOKING BACK: MOSCOW AND THE 1980 OLYMPICS
 
3. FUN AND GAMES IN MOSCOW (WELL ANYWAY, GAMES...)   
 
When I boarded the Aeroflot jet in Montreal to fly to Moscow, I was a tourist, not a reporter: the Soviets had never replied to my application for Olympic accreditation. I flew from Montreal because the Carter boycott didn't allow Aeroflot to land in the U.S.
 
I had my track tickets and a hotel room reservation, and a bus took me right from Sheremetyevo airport to the hotel. As soon as I checked in, I walked the 5,000 meters or so to the Press Center. There I pleaded my case to the officials in the lobby, who said, "We'll see; wait over there." After three hours of sitting, I was summoned to the desk and handed a phone, and heard that I had been accredited, and I could pick up my credential tomorrow.
 
When I walked into the Press Center next morning the first person I saw was Neil Amdur of The New York Times, with whom I had helped cover many meets for The Times. He was working alone, and he hired me on the spot.
 
Security was oppressive. Riding the bus to the opening ceremony, we saw soldiers holding automatic rifles every 10 meters or so. If you took the subway to the stadium, you had to show your credential or ticket 6 or 7 times during the 200-meter walk to the stadium gate. If you wanted to visit another hotel or a business building, you had to surrender your passport.When you left your own hotel, you had to hand over your room key to the "key lady" at a desk near the elevator. Several times I knew my room had been searched while I was out.
 
In the stadium, between the press stand and the Soviet citizens there was an entire section, top-to-bottom...empty. Obviously they didn't want "us" talking to "them." And when the stadium emptied, you suddenly realized that the first row of seats all the way around was occupied by (three guesses!) soldiers.
 
It was a dismal, depressing atmosphere. Suspicion was everywhere. The Soviet government didn't trust its own people, and that went double - or triple - for foreigners.
 

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