Moldovan activists have taken over Chisinau’s Republican Stadium for an art performance protesting the building’s sale to the US embassy.
Organised by contemporary Moldovan artist Pavel Braila, CITIUS ALTIUS FORTIUS (Faster, Higher, Stronger) filled the abandoned stadium with billowing orange smoke bombs.
Braila designed the project to evoke the power of the Olympic flame in the stadium itself, which hosted major international competitions before being closed by the government in 2007. The land was later sold to the United States as a space to build its new Moldovan headquarters.
“I want this stadium to stay a stadium. This is a public space that used to grow generations of sportspeople and we have no other place like it,” the 48-year-old artist told The Calvert Journal. “I was a three-time national wrestling champion, and the Republican Stadium is where I made my first steps in this sport. I would like for other generations of athletes to have the same opportunities.”
The act is part of a wider civic campaign called Stadionul Este Republican (or The Stadium is for the People in Romanian), which began in June this year. The campaign brings together architects, urban planners, artists and civic activists, who want a referendum as to how the space should be used.
“The purpose of the performance was to trigger an SOS,” movement co-founder Constanta Dohotaru, 29, told The Calvert Journal. “I really hope that the current, untransparent process will cease and we can restart. They have to begin a dialogue with the locals, civil society and specialists. We’re talking about a public space that is already green. These are the lungs of the town centre, inaccessible and invisible, which need to be harnessed.”
Opened in 1952, the Republican Stadium once hosted international football matches before FIFA and UEFA forbade any further games in 2003 due to the pitch’s deteriorating quality. Both organisations offered funding to refurbish the stadium, but the Moldovan government instead decided to bulldoze much of the area in 2007 before trying to sell the land to a number of potential buyers.
The US embassy and the government have not commented on the event.