Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports
|Full name||Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports|
Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports, also known as the Sporto Rūmai, is an arena in Vilnius, Lithuania. It is located on the site of the Piramónt cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, which dates back to the late fifteenth century, when Vilnius was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Russian authorities closed the cemetery in 1831. In 1935, the Vilna Board of Rabbis and the Vilna Gaon Synagogue in Tel Aviv protested the Polish municipal authorities' plans to construct a sports stadium there. The Soviet authorities destroyed the cemetery in 1949–1950 during the construction of Žalgiris Stadium. The Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports was opened in 1971. It was closed in 2004 and deemed unsafe.
The arena was capable of holding 4,400 spectators. It was primarily used for volleyball and basketball. In October 1988, the arena was the site of the Inaugural Congress of Sąjūdis, the Reform movement which led Lithuania in achieving independence from the Soviet Union. It was also the site of the public funeral of 13 Lithuanians massacred by Soviet troops at the Vilnius television tower on January 13, 1991.
The arena is emblematic of Communist Modernism. It is one of the few remaining sports arenas in this architectural style. Two other examples are the Hala Olivia in Gdansk, Poland, and the now destroyed Volgar Sports Palace in Tolyatti, Russia.
In August, 2015, Lithuania's Chief Rabbi Chaim Burshtein was dismissed by the Lithuanian Jews after he made a public statement opposing the conversion of the arena into a convention center. In 2016–2017, a petition opposing the convention center received 38,000 signatures, many from descendants of Lithuanian Jews now living in other countries.
The Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports is slated in 2022 to be transformed into the leading convention center in the Baltic states. The controversial project has been approved by the Lithuanian Jewish Community in December, 2019. More than 45,000 signatures have been collected to establish the convention center at a different site, away from Vilnius's oldest Jewish cemetery, which the Soviets desecrated in building the Sports Palace.
- Lithuania’s liveliest cemetery, 13 December 2015
- Document Unearthed: 1935 Tel Aviv Protest Against Plans to Defile the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, 14 June 2016
- Vilniaus koncertų ir sporto rūmų renovacijai reikės apie 100 mln. litų (in Lithuanian)
- Sokol, Sam (17 August 2015). "Lithuanian chief rabbi fired over cemetery dispute". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
- Lithuania reconsiders plans to build atop former Jewish cemetery — report, 22 February 2017
- "D. Matulionis: džiugu, kad pavyko sutarti mūsų valstybei ir Lietuvos žydų bendruomenei svarbiu klausimu". lrv.lt (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 28 December 2019.
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