The Olympics are in your town, that’s gotta be great, right. Except, Montreal may not agree with you. You see, 1976 Montreal Olympics was a disaster, in terms of the business of sport. The city was still paying for the event in 2006. Thirty years, thirty years is what it took to pay for the Olympics. Add to that the stunted legacy of the Olympic stadium. You just don’t build a stadium so that the world can be impressed for about a month or so. There needs to be a legacy, what happens to stadium after the event? There’s always a plan, this particular one was to hand it over to the Montreal Expos baseball club but with a dysfunctional retractable roof and the huge capacity of the stadium coupled with low attendances meant that the transition from Olympic venue to a profit making sports facility did not happen.
The other thing that happened around the same time was the political rise of the French speaking Parti Québécois, who made legislations strengthening the status of the French speaking majority of the state; consequently driving away the majority of English speakers away from Quebec. This, in turn led to the economic prominence of Toronto, the capital of Ontario – where most of these people migrated to – at the expense of Montreal and Quebec. This affected the economy and although the Olympics weren’t to be directly blamed for this decline, the financial stress on the city wasn’t helping. Remember, these were times when benefits from sporting events were calculated more on prestige and honour of being the host and less on economic terms.
The Olympic Stadium, nicknamed, “The Big O” in reference to its doughnut shape was soon cheekily being referred to as “The Big Owe”, considering that the city had to pay about $1.6 billion (Canadian, which took them thirty years to pay off. The stadium still doesn’t have a permanent tenant and hosts just some individual games of the Montreal Alouettes the Montreal Impact.
The first Olympics to be financially successful was the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, eight years after Montreal.