The infamous Olympic Stadium in Montreal’s Olympic Park has had more than its fair share of flack. Just ask any Montrealer and you’ll hear it—the tales of disgust and scandal that surround the making of the stadium intended for the 1976 Olympics. Known to locals as the “Big ‘O,’” the Olympic Stadium Montreal is definitely worth a visit.
The Montreal Olympic Stadium is a brilliant structure, to be sure—it’s just too bad that it wasn’t completed until 1990—14 years after the Olympics had come and gone. Not only did the Olympic Stadium Montreal take far longer to build than expected, it also cost hundreds of millions more than estimated. To add insult to injury, the Stadium and swimming complex have had a bad track record with parts breaking down and falling apart.
The much talked about retractable roof for the Montreal Olympic Stadium didn’t even arrive from its origin, Paris, France, until 1981. It sat unused for several years before the city found the money to have it attached. Even then, it ripped several times and needed expensive repairs. In 1991 part of the roof’s support causing hunks of concrete weighing 55 tons to fall to the ground. Miraculously, no one died. The city then decided to replace the retractable roof with a non-retractable steel one—a project that cost around $57 million. As if this wasn’t bad enough, another blunder took place in 1993 when one of the Olympic pool floors fell in during a therapy session with some senior citizens.
Apart from these major disasters, or perhaps because of them, the Olympic Stadium has become a busy tourist attraction in Montreal. The Stadium itself was made to hold 80,000 spectators and has been desperately trying to book events to pay for its financial debt. If you don’t get to attend an event at the Olympic Stadium Montreal, you can help take a bite out of the debt by taking a guided tour of the complex. Tours leave daily from the lobby the swimming complex. The natatorium, with six different pools, is impressive. One of the pools has an adjustable bottom, and one is 15m (49ft) deep for scuba diving.
For a great view of the city, take the cable car that goes from the Montreal Olympic Stadium to an observation deck. Tickets to the top cost $9 CAN for adults and $5.50CAN for children and students. There is also a free shuttle bus from the Olympic Park to the Botanical Garden.
The Olympic Stadium, a worthwhile tourist attraction in Montreal, is easily reached by metro stop Viau.