With the Rio Olympics opening this weekend, and Montreal marking the 40th anniversary of our games in 1976 much has been said and written about the legacy of those games. The Gazette columnist Basem Boshra wrote a piece on Monday titled Hosting the Olympics was cool, really, but let’s never do it again. While I agree with many of his points, I had to disagree with his contention that Montreal should never again embark on an Olympic bid. Below is my response as published in today’s paper:
Re: “Yes, it was fun, but never again” (Basem Boshra, Aug. 1)
Basem Boshra points out that Montreal is “widely admired around the world. … We do not need the spotlight of the Olympics to burnish our global standing.” I agree fully, but would suggest it was indeed that Olympic spotlight and Montreal’s continued standing as an Olympic city that have contributed to our status.
Those who complain about the cost of the Games are, understandably, locals who had to foot the bill. I believe this is far outweighed by the promotional benefits; advertising of this nature cannot be bought.
I recently took some guests to the Olympic Park and was pleasantly surprised to see so many tourists taking photos of the Olympic Stadium. These visitors are staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and buying goods. Like it or not, the stadium has become a symbol of Montreal’s Olympic standing to visitors, as iconic as the cross on Mount Royal.
Boshra wonders if the Expos, without the option of moving into the stadium, would have relocated downtown and perhaps still be playing here. I lament the loss of the Expos, but hold on to many memories of those great years in the ’80s and ’90s when the Olympic Stadium was packed with rabid fans. The winning product on the field vastly overshadowed the stadium’s shortcomings.
While I am not suggesting Montreal begin the process of bidding on another Olympics, I do hope we will not throw former mayor Jean Drapeau’s baby out with the bathwater. There were many advantages to having hosted the 1976 Games, so I’d prefer a “never say never”