The press conference announcing the upcoming Kremlin Cup was held in June 1989 in Hotel Savoy (we stayed in the Hotel Mezhdunarodnaya, which is now Crowne Plaza).
Gollar: In the beginning of June, I was in New York for the Bar Mitzvah of Ramin, the Mohebans’ son. I stayed with the Mohebans in their house, as I always do when I’m in New York. Shabbat in the synagogue was perfect, everything went according to plan. The big party was scheduled for Sunday evening, and on Monday I had my ﬂight back to Zürich, and from there to Moscow.
There’s a poem by Seyyed Hossein Tabataba’i that says:
The will of God is that which happens.
Your heart’s desire is that which does not happen.
آﻧﭽﻪ ﺧﺪا ﺧﻮاﺳﺖ ﻫﻤﺎن ﻣﯽﺷﻮد و
آﻧﭽﻪ دﻟﺖ ﺧﻮاﺳﺖ ﻧﻪ آن ﻣﯽﺷﻮد
Unfortunately, while we were preparing for the party, God decided to summon Fred’s mother, the grandmother of the Bar Mitzvah boy, back to His Presence. She passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, and the whole family fell into mourning. The party became a Shiva. I wanted to stay and support my dear friends, but I couldn’t reach Sasson to tell him, so I had to ﬂy back the next day as planned. If I hadn’t appeared, he would have gone crazy worrying and not being able to ﬁnd out what had happened. Hard to imagine in our world of Internet and smartphones!
Two days later, I was on the ﬂight to Moscow, where I hadn’t been for 12 years. When we entered the Russian airspace, they announced that photography was forbidden from this point on. I had heard this before, but this announcement made me shiver every time like the ﬁrst time, being reminded that I’m entering a forbidden territory.
When I landed in Moscow, there was no car to pick me up from the airport. The office simply forgot to send a car! What could I do? I took a taxi. When I arrived everyone told me: “Are you crazy to go by taxi? That’s life-threatening!” I had been lucky not to know that, or I would have died of terror on the way! I came with a bag full of cash at a time that people would kill for $100. Thank God, no one knew about it outside our office!
When I arrived at the office, Gene Scott and the people from the ATP Tour were all there: Sasha Vainstein and Sergei (a member of Stalin’s family), Martin Reiss from our PR, and Elizabeth Lovell from the ATP Tour. When I saw what was on the table, I got completely dizzy: masses of Caviar on top of blinis, red Caviar, champaign, vodka… I was thinking about the costs. How are we going to pay for all this?
What I didn’t know was that with a good tip you could pay in rubles, while non-tipping tourists had to buy everything in dollars. So the whole sumptuous meal with all this caviar and vodka for 20 people, cost about $100. Those days are long over. Don’t try it now.
The next day we had the press conference in the beautiful Hotel Savoy. It was wonderful. It gave the whole thing a very official touch. The ATP Tour was very happy about the tournament in Moscow, because they wanted to have tournaments in the East as well. But they were shocked by the situation: The stores were practically empty, hardly any food to buy there. We had to import everything from Denmark, Germany, Norway… except caviar, blinis and wild sturgeon, the ﬁsh that lays the caviar. And alcohol, of course. The things that were in the stores were very cheap, if you paid in rubles.