Montreal 1976: Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

Built especially for the Olympic Games Montreal 1976, the Olympic Stadium remains in use all year round. A central part of the Olympic Park complex, it is one of three Canadian stadiums that will be used at the FIFA World Cup United 2026. 

Montreal-1976-Olympic-Stadium
© Rodrigolab | Dreamstime.com - An aerial view of the Montreal Olympic Stadium and Tower, the stadium hosts numerous cultural, commercial, and national and international sporting events all year round.

The stadium hosts a number of cultural, commercial, and national and international sporting events all year round. Its athletic facilities have been used by the people of Montreal ever since the Olympic Games ended. Recognised as a world-renowned architectural masterpiece and a symbol of Montreal, it was visited by 66 million people between 1976 and 2011, and was in use for 239 days in 2017, when it hosted the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships and generated CAD 13,519 million in revenue.

The Quebec government is committed to the future of the Big O, as the stadium is known in Montreal. A new retractable roof will be installed in time for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, when the stadium will host three matches.

Meanwhile, its tower, which was completed in 1987 and extensively renovated in 2017, has been converted into a multi-purpose complex, 85 per cent of which has been rented out. At 165 metres tall and inclined at a 45-degree angle, it is the highest such tower in the world and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year, lured by its panoramic views of the Olympic complex and the city.

The stadium hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the track and field events and the football and equestrian team jumping finals at the Olympic Games Montreal 1976. These events went ahead without the roof and tower having been completed, following a three-year construction process in which steep inflation, rising material costs, technical challenges and strikes pushed the total cost of the stadium to CAD 795.4 million.

The figure exceeded Montreal's initial estimate during its bid to host the Games, leading to increased attention and controversy surrounding the stadium, making it one of the more debated venues of its kind. It was not until 2006 that the deficits from its construction were resolved. This was achieved through a restructuring of repayments over a 30-year period, which included extending the Olympic lottery through to 1979 and levying a provincial tobacco tax.

The Expos, the city's former Major League Baseball team, made the stadium their home in 1977 but departed for Washington in 2004. Since then, the Olympic Stadium has not hosted a resident team, sparking ongoing debates in the city.