Tallinn TV Tower

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Image:Tallinn tv tower.jpg
Tallinn TV Tower, looking up at the top.
The Tallinn TV Tower (Tallinna teletorn) is a free-standing structure with an observation deck, built to provide better telecommunication services for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics regatta event (see Sailing at the 1980 Summer Olympics). It is located near Pirita, six kilometres north-east of Tallinn, Estonia. The tower has a specification height of 314 metres (1030.2 ft), some sources state 312.6 metres (1026.6 ft). The building is administered by the public company Levira (formerly Estonian Broadcasting Transmission Center Ltd) and is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.

The tower was designed by architects David Baziladze and Juri Sinis. The cornerstone was laid in September 30, 1975, and the building was inaugurated in July 11, 1980 (the first actual transmission took place in 1979, though). The tower body is constructed of reinforced concrete rings 50 centimetres thick, weighing a total of 17,000 metric tons, with total weight being approximately 20,000 tons. The tower survived a fire during the construction stage.

The observation deck on the 21st floor, which was originally designed to have a rotating section, is located 170 metres above ground, and has a diameter of 38 metres. It's open to visitors (tickets 50 Estonian kroon in 2006) and, besides stairs, it can be accessed by two express elevators, taking 45 seconds to travel to the top. Vilnius TV Tower, which has a similar architectural design, features a rotating observation deck 165 metres above ground.

Local guide books advertise the spectacular views across Tallinn, extending over the Gulf of Finland to Finland on clear days. It's described as having a 1980s Soviet feel and there's a restaurant on the observation floor. At the base of the tower, there remain some bullet holes dating from an attempted Soviet takeover in 1991.

There is also the widespread story of a handful of radio operators who, in 1991, were willing to lose their lives to protect the free media of the reborn Republic of Estonia. They placed a matchbox between the elevator's door and frame in such a manner that the elevator wouldn't work - this forced the Soviet troops to climb every one of the approx. 1000 steps up into the tower. The operators also had the oxygen-removing fire-fighting system at their disposal. This story is well-known in Estonia; it is also part of the movie 1991.

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