For those of you who need the TLDR: Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is an awesome place to watch (or do) parkour.
Most people around here unfortunately know about Canada’s greatest olympic legacy by the financial disaster Montreal’s stadium turned out to be, hence the nickname “The Big Owe.” That’s a damn shame, because aside from offering an awesome retrotastic hulk of poetically aging modernist brutalist-meets-StarTrek concerete character to the East End, the Olympics also brought Montreal a whole bunch of fabulous sports facilites… that anyone can use for free.
That’s right, NADA. For example, anyone can just rock on up to the Centre sportif Claude Robillard and use facilities that were designed for the best athletes on the planet. After you’ve finished checking out the fab 70s architecture (including the original press galeries) and the pictogrammes that set the standard for international icons, you can take your pick of training in specially designed rooms for anything from weightlifting to judo to fencing or racquetball… There’s a running track, four tennis courts, a boxing ring… It’s incredible! OK, to be clear, not all the activities are free. Those that aren’t are either cheap or can be accessed through an amateur sports club. Anyway, check it out. Some of Canada’s Olympic athletes continue to train there today.
There are Olympic leftovers all over Montreal. The current Université de Montréal “CEPSUM” gym was a pre-competition training facility. Part of the Expo67 area was converted into a rowing basin. One of the wrestling facilities is now an ice hockey rink.
Getting back to the Olympic Stadium itself, unfortunately, beyond being a financial disaster, the stadium turned out to be a construction disaster too. It wasn’t finished in time. The roof never worked. Tons of concrete have fallen off it and on to the playing field. It has sat more or less empty for the last few years. And finally, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to demolish.
Tant mieux that we’re stuck with, I say. It’s a magnificent piece of iconic and original architecture whose trials and tribulations are part of Montreal’s identity. Its thrilling design points to an era of audaciousness, openness and renaissance in Quebec society. I absolutely love that people are spontaneously using it for a new sport. And in terms of the stadium symbolizing a new era for our city, here’s the real clincher for me: despite Canada being traditionally a closed-doors kind of place, the Province wants to know what you think we should do with it. Anyone can have their say here! Isn’t that awesome?
There are a lot of different ideas floating around. I like the idea of keeping the Stadium for its original purpose, but it seems that we don’t have much use for a venue of that size. One idea that appeals to me is to make the Stadium into a conference and exhibition centre. Space is hard to come by in downtown Montreal (Palais des congrès is booked out three years in advance) and business, cultural and political events could bring a lot of different kinds of people into a part of town that is often forgotten about. Transport is excellent, downtown is directly accessible by metro, and again, the stadium really is an exceptional building. In the meantime, Parkour, anybody?