The Nikon Olympic embassy built in the heart of Soviet Russia

Press photographers using Nikon gear at the Moscow Olympics (Pic: Sovetskoe Foto)

The Nikon Service Centre was set up in the heart of the Luzhniki Stadium

The Nikon Olympic embassy built in the heart of Soviet Russia by Stephen Dowling:

In 1980, Nikon had a new SLR to unveil to the world, and the best possible arena to show it off in – the Olympic Games.

The camera was the third F-mount SLR Nikon unleashed upon the world, following 1959’s Nikon F and 1972’s F2. The F and F2 were the first Japanese SLRs to prise Leica and Contax rangefinders from the hands of professional photojournalists. They were tough and reliable and the lenses were exceptional. Sports snappers and war correspondents alike realised the F was a perfect tool in tough environments.

In 1964, when Japan hosted the Summer Olympics for the first time in the capital Tokyo, Nikon went all out, extolling the virtues of its ‘system camera’ – lenses, finders, focusing screens and more – in adverts ahead of the games.  In 1972, just in time for the Munich Olympics in West Germany, Nikon even released an F with a motordrive that could shoot at seven frames per second. Even Usain Bolt couldn’t outrun that.

The camera ready to be unveiled to the world in 1980 was a space-age long-jump leap ahead of the F2. The Nikon F3 was the first F-mount camera to feature a stepless electronic shutter. It was also the first in an illustrious line of Nikon cameras to be designed by visionary Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, also responsible for the DMC De Lorean. After two decades of Nikon supremacy, the scene was seemingly set for another triumph.

But this was no ordinary Olympics. The summer games had been awarded – for the first time – to a Communist nation. The games would come to Moscow, just months after the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, and bringing the Cold War into one of its chilliest phases.

However, Nikon would be one of the few Western companies who would defy a commercial boycott of the games – much of the world’s press corps would still be there.

And to take care of this army of Nikon-toting photographers deep in the heart of the Cold War USSR, Nikon set up a special service centre, full of techs who could keep the press corps’ Nikons humming along. With the help of a Russian photo historian, Kosmo Foto has the story of this Nikon Olympic embassy on the banks of the Moskva River

This Nikon badge was made especially for the 1980 Olympics (Pic: Meshok)

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