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An Unexpected Second Act for Montreal's Olympic Stadium

On its 40th anniversary, the “Big Owe” is slowly turning into a source of pride.
An estimated 15,000 people gathered at a food truck festival at the Olympic Park in August.
An estimated 15,000 people gathered at a food truck festival at the Olympic Park in August. Laura Bliss

For decades, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium has been the city’s architectural calling card, the postcard image known around the world. But to locals, the swoopy concrete saucer that dominates the city’s east end has also been a bitter reminder of the debt, corruption, and construction delays that almost cost the city its 1976 games.

Final costs for the park were more than triple the $300 million (in Canadian funds) once estimated by the flamboyant mayor Jean Drapeau, who lured the Olympics to town after an ultra-successful World’s Fair in 1967. The leaning tower alongside it was only completed a decade after the games ended. The retractable roof, also finished 10 years late, tore open more often than it successfully peeled back.