Montreal Olympic Stadium: 'The Big Woe'
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.
. The stadium became the home of the city's professional baseball team, the Montreal Expos, in 1977. It also became a popular venue for large-scale events such as rock concerts and trade shows.
. The retractable roof wasn't finished for the Games, so the roofing materials remained in storage in France until 1982. They were shipped to Canada in 1982, but along the way suffered $1 million in damage.
. The retractable roof, made of orange Kevlar material, was finally installed in 1987. That same year, the stadium's signature 175-metre inclined tower was finally finished.
. Kevlar is a thick polymer substance. It's the same material that bulletproof vests are made from.
. In 1989, the roof tore during a monster truck pull event, as an audience of 8,000 fled the stadium.
. In 1991, high winds tore the roof several more times. Several years later, in 1996, a piece of scaffolding tore through the roof during routine maintenance.
. In 1997, the province finally agreed to put a $37 million fixed roof on the stadium. It was made of Teflon-coated fibreglass. That roof unfortunately tore during the ice storm of 1998.
. In January 1999, a 350-square-metre piece of the roof came crashing down under the weight of heavy snow and rain. Two workers were injured.
. The tower was originally intended to aid in retracting the roof, but now (2004) its only practical use is for tourists who want to get a bird's eye view of Montreal from the observatory deck at the top. To get to this deck, visitors ride up in a 76-person capacity cable car.
. By the end of the Games, the entire stadium was estimated to have cost the city more than $1 billion, and the entire Games were estimated to have cost over $1.5 billion (a far cry from Drapeau's original prediction of $310 million).
. Over the years, the amount of money spent on the stadium's roof and its many repairs and updates is estimated at over $200 million.
. Montreal finally paid off its entire Olympic debt by the end of 2006. With inflation, interest and stadium repairs factored in, the actual debt came to well over $2 billion.
. The financial fiascos of the Montreal Olympics left many nations wary of hosting subsequent Olympic Games.
. There have been countless critics of the stadium and the overblown, bungled preparations for Montreal Games. But some supporters maintain the Games were good for Montreal. Sports historian Earl Zuckerman said this in a 2001 CBC report: "I think Montreal got a touch of class when they started with the World's Fair and then followed up with the Olympics. It created much more tourism in the city, and put Montreal on equal footing with every major city in the world."
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: Jan. 22, 1999
Guest(s): Serge Chapleau, Michael Farmer, Serge Ménard, Gilles Proulx, Jack Todd
Host: Hana Gartner
Reporter: Terence McKenna
Last updated: May 24, 2012
Page consulted on April 12, 2013
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