Olympic Stadium - the perennial albatross

Sins of 1976 Olympic Games endure in Montreal
A look back at the price Montreal paid – and continues to pay – for its 1976 financial disaster
The Globe and Mail

[b]- Montrealers tend to think that there’s too little remaining from Expo 67 and far too much left from the 1976 Olympic Games. The city’s recent past might have been very different if the Olympic Stadium had been as easy to clear away as most of Expo’s pavilions.

Acknowledgments of the Games’ 40th anniversary this month have mainly been sombre. The competitions were over in 16 days, but the $1.2-billion Olympic debt weighed on the city and the province for 30 years. The stadium, which alone cost around $1-billion, is still under perpetual repair for its dysfunctional roof, with further costs of $220-million projected by 2025.
What began as an effort “to stage modest Games that would pay for themselves? turned into an uncontrolled building spree in which even the parking garages ended up costing five times the original estimate.

Many factors lay beyond the organizers’ control. The subsoil beneath Olympic Park was less stable than expected, wage and price inflation was rampant, a recession hit in 1974 and a labour conflict stopped all work for 155 days in a six-month period leading up to the Games. Far too much of the Olympic infrastructure was built in a last-minute frenzy of overtime.
In that hubristic spirit, once the 1976 Games came his way, Drapeau selected an architect for Olympic Park with no open competition, nor even a signed contract spelling out the extent and limits of the brief. The mayor didn’t break stride when the federal government formally disowned, in advance, any possible deficit – a move that later provided political capital for René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois.

Disastrously bad management of the building program was laid out in painful detail during a provincial inquiry convened to find out how Drapeau’s “modest Games? had gone so wrong.
The inquiry’s final report found his leadership of the event incompetent and irresponsible.
Corruption charges were brought successfully against senior officials. The Montreal Olympics became an international symbol of how the Games can become a Trojan horse that destroys those who drag it inside their city gates.

More important for Montreal, the Olympics had a profound effect on the means and ambitions available for public building projects. The stadium more or less killed interest in landmark architectural projects, in Montreal and Quebec generally. The “starchitect? who arrives with expensive unworkable plans is a figure of collective nightmare. Whenever a new public building goes up, the watchwords are functionality and cost control.
Keen interest in cost engineering, to use the architects’ phrase, became necessary in Montreal while trying to build out from under the Olympic debt. Even so, the construction and maintenance of public works suffered. When Toronto was enjoying a building boom of cultural facilities a decade ago, Montreal was sinking its share of federal infrastructure money into long-delayed upgrades of sewers and pipes.

His stadium today has no anchor tenants. A recently announced plan to install office workers in the spatulate leaning tower, which has stood empty since it was added in 1986, will cost $60-million for renovations.[/b]


Problem with the stadium remains to this day. Its Corruption and collusion between Greasy Gov. officials, Union and the mob... Nothing has changed and probably never will. Mob town...

is it true that approx. 1 out of every 4 truckloads of concrete slated for Olympic Stadium was never unloaded and circumvented to private enterprise projects yet still billed to the Province and City?

and incredibly with cost overruns, strikes, corruption, delays etc etc, the final tally for this bottomless pit ended up costing $1.61 BILLION dollars making it one of the most expensive stadiums ever built anywhere but also the added insult of having no primary tenant.

for that money, the City could have built state of the art football, soccer, and baseball specific stadiums for each sport and still had plenty of money left over to play with for other infrastructure projects or much needed health/educational facilities.

This tale always seems to get a little distorted re the cost of the stadium itself.

In total, repaying the mortgage ($1.5 billion) took 30 years (same as a house) for all the facilities combined: the Olympic Village and its subsequent conversion to rental apartments, the Velodrome and its conversion to the Biodôme, and the Stadium and adjacent Sports Centre. Soooo... it's this


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And you can also add in the rowing basin
= 1.5 billion

This is an interesting read
The 1976 Montreal Olympics: A Case Study of a Project Management Failure

Some good Olympic Stadium videos

Nice video showing the structures (including the pool, which has been refurbished in the last few years) where that 1.5 billion was spent (not sure what that last minute was about)
Olympic Stadium, Montreal - Canada HD Travel Channel

A couple of more good Olympic Stadium vids, the first is en francais the latter is an amateur effort but has some good early footage.
Les Grands Projets Québécois - Le Stade Olympique de Montréal
The Montreal Olympics Stadium

Been in that stadium many times since my first visit during day 1 of the decathlon in 1976 (can you say Bruce?) and I've always liked it...debt aside. Seen better days to be sure but in it's day it was pretty sweet.

Agree with you 100%.
Anything the politicians touch anywhere in the world when combined with being corrupted by private industry spells financial disaster for the hardworking taxpayers.
We had the same problem here in Toronto with the Skydome, with overruns and corruption galore for a project that was budgeted for $200M and came in north of $600M.

I think the Big O is a beautiful stadium, and feel its a shame that it's rarely used now, but I did read once that it is rented out about 150 days per year. I assume for conferences.

I would still like to know if it can be used for future Grey Cups.

Hope so . My Stamps do quite well in the Oly.

Molson, not so much.

Very true. Conferences, trade shows, etc.

[i]Johnny keeps hoping that they will renovate and modernize Olympic Stadium, like they did with BC place in 2011. BC Place is awesome now. Olympic Stadium would be great if it had a retractable roof, like it was always meant to have.

SIgh, it will most likely never happen. :frowning: :frowning: [/i]

I agree that a retractable roof , and maybe some better seats (derrieres have gotten wider since 1976, especially mine), would help a lot. But the retractable roof would have to be an entirely separate structure as the roof was designed simply as a free standing roof, with the tower supporting the weight of the roof. Maybe a rolling solid shell supported by arches over the stadium at each end; the tower might provide some help. But that would be prriiiccccceeeeeyyyyyyy.

Maybe the solution is to use a hard permanent roof, as opposed to the soft ones that only seem to last 20 years or so.

When did they switch from the old orange roof to the current dark one? I'm speaking of the colour it was inside the dome. I think it was in the early 90's.

Likely in some way, but it cannot just be mounted on the roof; the weight must being born by other structures, maybe a multi-post/tower system somewhat like BC Place.

Don't recall it was that it was decided to change the colour as much as the new roof material was an opaque blue.

They can support it with the leaning tower, no? There are many hard and light materials in the world.

The Francois Delaney design

The Bissonnette Report, I believe, recommended using the same design as Roger Taillibert except with modern materials.

For what purpose? Talk about flushing money down the toilet.

Would the Alouettes be leaving Molson Stadium? They could "pack" 20,000 into the Big Owe at least NINE (9) times a year. Maybe even a playoff game if they could somehow miraculously get into the post season.

Other than that, what function would a retractable roof serve - - would it attract more "conferences" than the 150 alleged?

Everyone in the world could laugh at Montreal - - again - - for dumping even more money into this 40yr old boat anchor.

I was looking at it in the context of making it retractable to enhance the utility/appeal of the stadium