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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

60 Years Later, a Very Important Slumber Party

National HotelAs usual, Jacques Chirac lodged in the National Hotel's presidential suite during this year's May 9 festivities.
Government agents moved in to secure the scene months in advance. They booted businessmen and tourists from their hotel reservations and kept any new guests from checking in. The agents installed metal detectors at the entrances of the city's best hotels and informed the management they would set up their own security posts. As a final touch, they asked the hotels to offer discounts to President Vladimir Putin's very special guests.

When 57 world leaders and their attendant delegations descended on Moscow earlier this month to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Kremlin wasn't leaving hospitality to chance.

The result was a kind of international VIP slumber party on steroids. Rarely has Moscow had to provide so much high-class hospitality at the same time -- and getting the job done was a logistical feat for the city's top hotels.

"Of course it was hard for the staff," said Anna Amosova, spokeswoman for the National Hotel, where 10 heads of state and their entourages took up all 221 rooms. "We were very afraid, of course, that something could happen. But there weren't any incidents. It was hard, but we did it well."

At a request from the authorities planning the event, the National canceled all private reservations for the May 9 holiday at the beginning of the year.

"We had no problem with the cancellations. Everyone understood [that] we were forced to do it," Amosova said. She declined to say how many reservations were scotched, but said the hotel ultimately had to turn down about 200 guests who would have stayed in the hotel that weekend.

The National also gave discounts to the foreign delegations, but Amosova declined to say how much.

Like the National, the Sheraton also said it got a call from the presidential administration last winter about making enough space available. The hotel ended up giving out 50 percent discounts to dignitaries such as the Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Albanian President Alfred Moisiu.

"We do not think it is unfair to the hotels to underprice," said Tatiana Toumarkina, spokeswoman for the Sheraton, "partly because they had such large groups."

U.S. President George W. Bush, who stayed at the Marriot, was one of those who didn't exactly travel light.

"Way more than 1,000" people traveled to Moscow in the Bush's entourage, according to a diplomat, who asked not to be identified.

That number included aides, security personnel, logistics specialists, journalists, Russia experts and others. The White House advance team started trickling in weeks ahead to make the necessary preparations.

The Hotel Rossiya, the enormous concrete monolith originally built by Nikita Khrushchev to house visiting Communist Party delegates, ended up hosting the more than 180 journalists who accompanied Bush. Since they were not allowed to join Bush on Red Square during the Victory Day parade, they had to report on the celebrations from the state-of-the-art press center set up in the Rossiya.

A master plan for the delegations' sleeping arrangements was hammered out between City Hall and the Foreign Ministry, hoteliers said.

Government agents, hotel security personnel and the visiting dignitaries' bodyguards all bivouacked with the heads of state, meaning that a hotel like the National had no fewer than a dozen security teams guarding it -- not counting city cops.

The German, Czech, Slovak and Azeri delegations, along with British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott all lodged in the Baltschug Kempinski; about a third of the hotel's 232 rooms were occupied by foreign dignitaries.

The VIP guests left some lasting impressions. At the Sheraton, Turkish security guards who didn't speak either Russian or English ended up communicating with hotel staff in sign language.

And at the National, French President Jacques Chirac -- who bunked in his usual suite -- later sent the heads of hotel security gold watches along with a thank-you letter to the management.

All in all, Moscow hoteliers called the event a success, despite the added hassle.

"You're talking about thousands of room nights," said Scott Antell, partner and head of hospitality services at Ernst & Young. "I don't think the hotels mind these things at all."