Remembering the Montreal Olympics of 76

on 9:42 pm

Do you remember the Montreal Olympics of 1976? I do. The Montreal Olympics were the first Olympics I remember, mind you I remember them in black and white - colour TV's weren't market fixtures yet at that time in Portugal and I was still 3 years away from emigrating to Canada.

Now if there's one legacy of the Montreal Games that still remains, it's a little something that became a BIG something (in more ways then one) known as Le Stade Olympique de Montréal. Here it is below:

Now what you may or may not know is that the 76 Olympics were a financial disaster for Montreal, with the city ending up with a debt that would take 30 years to pay off. The incompetency of the city, in fact, lead to the Quebec provincial government having to take over construction when it became evident, a year before the games were to begin, that work had fallen behind schedule. One week leading up to the opening ceremonies, construction was still under way, and the tower, that had been projected for the stadium at its inauguration, was not completed until 1987.

Nicknamed The Big O as a reference to both its name and doughtnut-shaped opening in its roof (that was meant to have a retractable roof but has never come to fruition), the stadium was not completely paid off until December, 2006. The final expenditure (including construction, repairs, renovations, interest and inflation) amounted to $1.61 billion (cdn). Ironically, one year before it was paid off, The Big One was left tenentless after its only tenent, the Montreal Expos, moved south of the border to Washington. 

For the province of Quebec, the 76 Olympics thus left a financial legacy. For the world, however, the games left both political and some historical sports moments. In running some of these down they include:

- Taro Aso, a member of the Japanese shooting team, 32 years later would be elected as the prime minister of Japan.

- The daughter of the Queen of England, Princess Anne, competed in the games as part of the British equestrian riding team.
- 28 African nations boycotted the Games in response to the participation of New Zealand, a country whose national rugby team (the All Blacks) continued to play rugby with South Africa, a country that had been banned from the Olympic movement since 1964 due to its apartheid policies.
- The 14-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci who scored seven perfect 10.0 and won three gold medals, including the prestigious All-Around. Funny enough though, the score board could hold only 3 digits and the score was shown as 1.00 every time she pulled off a perfect 10.
- The Montreal Games would introduce the Bruce Jenner to the world, the decathlon gold medal winner in Montreal, today a facelift/plastic surgery lover.
Lets opt for a picture of Nadia Comăneci instead with her 1.00:
The Olympic flame also became "electronic" in 76, being transmitted via satellite from Athens to Ottawa by means of an electronic pulse derived from a acual burning flame. From Ottawa it then went by hand to Montreal. After a rainstorm doused out the flame a few days after the games opening ceremonies, an official relit the flame using his cigarette lighter. Organisers quickly doused it out again and relit it using a backup of the original flame.

The guy with the lighter then went up to the flame and lit a cigarette with the flame becoming the first to do such a thing. Ok this part I made up but it would've been something. And with the afros they had back then, you just know what the main thing going through the head of the guy in the above picture was, right? Lets keep that fire at a distance.

So in the end, the Soviet Union lead the medal count with a total of 125 medals, with the United States not even a close second with 94 medals. Canada pulled off 11 medals and Portugal two silvers. Wikipedia is wonderful ... as is the steeplechase!