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Montreal Olympics 1976: 'self-financing?'

Montreal's unforgettable '76 Olympics had more ups and downs than a high jump competition. From out-of-control financial disasters and controversial political boycotts, to Nadia Comaneci's "perfect 10" and Canadian high jumper Greg Joy's exciting final jump — Montreal's Games had Canadians on the edge of their seats. CBC Archives looks back at the 1976 Olympics: their preparations, their competitions and their continued impact on Montreal.

media clip
Mayor Jean Drapeau is making an important budgetary announcement today: the 1976 Montreal Summer Games will be the first "self-financing" Games in Olympic history! Drapeau expects the Games to pay for themselves almost entirely through the sale of Olympic coins, stamps and lottery tickets. As long as the federal government agrees to these moneymaking programs, no other funding will be necessary. In this clip, the CBC's Yvon Vadnais reports on Drapeau's news conference.

Throughout the conference, Drapeau refuses to even consider the possibility of an Olympic deficit. In fact, he says the Olympics will probably even be a moneymaking venture - a statement that brings chuckles from the cynical "newsmen" in the room. But their laughter only makes Drapeau more resolute: "It won't be very long before some argument is started throughout Canada to find out how the surplus will be spent," he declares. 
. Montreal won the bid for the 1976 Olympic Games in May 1970, beating out Moscow by a vote of 48 to 41. At the time, Drapeau was promising a simpler, more pared-down Olympics than the world had experienced in recent years. He expected it would only cost around $120 million.

. On Jan. 29, 1973, Drapeau formally announced his budgetary plans for the upcoming Games. He said the Games would cost $310 million - around $250 million for facilities and about $60 million for administration. To pay for it, Drapeau hoped to earn $250 million from the sale of Olympic coins; $32 million from a new lottery; $10 million from Olympic stamps; and the remaining $18 million would come from other channels such as ticket sales, television rights and souvenirs.

. By comparison, the 1972 Munich Olympics had cost around $600 million (which included the installation of a new subway line) and the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City had cost approximately $150 million.

. On the same day Drapeau announced his Olympic budget, he stated that "the Montreal Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby." Many Canadians were skeptical that this would be the case. This famous quotation - which doesn't appear in this radio clip but appeared in a Canadian Press story on Jan. 30, 1973 - was frequently repeated in the following years as the deficit skyrocketed.

. A week prior to Drapeau's Olympic budget speech, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau stated that he wouldn't agree to the coin, stamp or lottery projects unless he received a guarantee from Drapeau that the federal government wouldn't have to pick up any deficit incurred by the Games.

. The Quebec provincial government subsequently promised to cover any deficit, as long as it didn't exceed $10 million. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau - who remained determined that the federal government would not be stuck paying Montreal's Olympic deficit - responded to this by saying that this "doesn't seem to be much of a guarantee. We want to know for sure who's going to pick up the tab, whether it be $5 million, $10 million or $100 million."

. Trudeau eventually agreed to the coin, stamp and lottery projects. These projects achieved relative success -especially the lottery, which was Canada's first ever national lottery - but Montreal's Olympic deficit eventually soared so high that the proceeds from these projects wouldn't make much of a dent anyhow.

. Jean Drapeau was mayor of Montreal from 1954 to 1957 and from 1960 to 1986.
. He was famous for his ambitious projects, which included building Montreal's rubber-tired subway system in 1966 and the spectacular Expo '67.
. The 1976 Games in Montreal were the first Games ever to be hosted by a Canadian city.
Medium: Radio
Program: Radio News
Broadcast Date: Jan. 29, 1973
Guest(s): Jean Drapeau, Roger Rousseau
Reporter: Yvon Vadnais
Duration: 3:19

Last updated: May 24, 2012

Page consulted on April 16, 2014

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