The Big Owe

Originally budgeted to cost a relatively meagre $134-million, the tab for Montreal’s Olympic stadium ballooned to over $1.5-billion thanks to construction delays, repairs and every calamity imaginable. Now, the city’s Olympic Installations Board wants to buy yet another roof for it. They just couldn’t stand the thought of having finally paid the thing off, I guess.

Despite stiff competition from falling chunks of concrete, an exploding tower and Genesis reunion concerts, the ongoing roof debacle is arguably the most comical aspect of Olympic Stadium. For your reading pleasure, a sprinkling of roof-related lowlights:

  • Neither the tower nor the roof was even ready when the stadium opened for the 1976 Olympics.
  • A hideous orange Kevlar tarp eventually covered the stadium in 1987, more than ten years after it opened. It tore the first time the roof was opened and was also prone to leaking.
  • A new mechanism to open and close the roof was installed in 1989, but it didn’t work in even the mildest of winds.
  • The Kevlar roof was torn again by a tornado in 1991.
  • Two Rolling Stones concerts had to be cancelled in 1998 when chunks of ice fell through the roof. The Kevlar was removed for good later that year.
  • A new, non-retractable roof was installed in 1998 at a cost of $37-million. In early 1999, part of it collapsed, showering staff setting up a car show on the stadium floor with ice and snow. The Montreal Auto Show wisely opted for better digs, never to return, and no events have taken place at the stadium between the months of November and April since the collapse.
  • Baseball’s Expos, the only professional sports franchise still using the stadium, left town after the 2004 season. Talk of installing another new roof started up again the next year, proving yet again that a fool and his money are soon parted.

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