Unsafe roof forces Big O to close for winter

The playing field of Olympic Stadium will be closed to events again this winter because of fears the roof is unsafe, the Quebec government said Friday.

Andre Boisclair, minister responsible for the Olympic installations board, said there are fears the roof can't handle heavy snow.

"What is closed is only the field," Boisclair said.

However, Boisclair said the decision won't affect the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup on Nov. 25, which will go ahead as planned.

Some activities planned for other parts of the stadium also won't be affected this winter, he said. There has been no access to the playing field for the last couple of winters.

A chunk of the roof collapsed under the weight of snow in January 1999 while workers were setting up for a trade show. There were no serious injuries.

Boisclair said he has never been given an explanation by Birdair, the roof's manufacturer, about its problems. The company replaced the stadium's roof for $37 million in 1998.

"How come that roof isn't able to support snow," he asked.

"We've been discussing for months with Birdair and they haven't been able to give us a clear answer to a simple question -- what happened to the roof," he said.

He said he has decided to use the courts to settle the problem but doesn't exclude an out-of-court settlement.

The Olympic Stadium is the home baseball park of the National League's Montreal Expos.

The stadium's retractable roof has seldom worked properly.