The never-completed TV tower in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth-largest city, has been razed ahead of the soccer tournament. Popular with locals, officials said the 220-meter structure "disfigured the city landscape."
One of the 11 Russian cities hosting this summer's soccer World Cup blew up its most famous landmark — a rusty, half-finished Soviet-era television tower — on Saturday.
Construction of the 220-meter (725-foot) concrete structure in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg began in 1983 but was never completed following 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.
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 about 200 million rubles (€2.8 million, $3.5 million). An 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."
"No one seriously believes that the city needs such a symbol," Yevgeny Kuivashev, the governor of the Sverdlovsk region, said in a radio interview.
Attempts were made to find a new use for the tower, which was once the tallest abandoned building in the world. 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."
Ivan Volkov, a 39-year-old lawyer and the head of a committee that opposed the destruction of the tower, said the decision had been made "behind the scenes" without residents' knowledge.
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 said its destruction was as if the French government had decided 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.
Yekaterinburg — sometimes spelled Ekaterinburg — will host four World Cup matches at its renovated central stadium during the monthlong tournament. Other matches will be played in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad and Sochi, among other cities.
mm/sms (AP, Reuters)