Montreal’s Olympic Park to remain closed due to fire; arson suspected

April 4, 2024 – Montreal
Montreal’s Olympic Park to remain closed due to fire; arson suspected

A fire that occurred on March 21st at the base of the tower that looms over the landmark Olympic Stadium’s southside will take up to six months to repair, reports say, and the closure could have serious implications for Canada’s Olympic teams.

The facility and former home of the 1976 Olympic Summer games is currently used by athletes to prepare for upcoming tournaments – and with the Summer Olympics in Paris just around the corner, many of Team Canada’s potential representatives are left wondering how they will be able to finalize their preparations for the games.

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An official press release said that “significant damage due to the abundant infiltration of smoke and water caused by the firefighters in order to extinguish the fire,” is the reason for the closure while more that 275 people have been hard at testing the air quality on the 14 affected floors.

Swimming Canada has announced on social media that they are looking into options due to the uncertainty that the pools in the stadium will be cleared for training, and racing must be held in a 50 metre pool with capacity for participants and spectators, in a venue capable of accommodating broadcasting for the event. Perhaps the Aquatic center in Pointe-Claire, which has hosted major events in the past, could be considered for such a task.

“Our top priority is to maintain trials on the original dates of May 13-19. We will provide more information as soon as we are able to do so.”

There was public outcry and resentment when it was announced on February 5th that the Quebec government planned to shell out $870 million dollars to replace the roof of the stadium – which gives fuel to the speculation that the fire may well have been an arson from an irate citizen.

The Montreal police arson squad is currently investigating the case. SPVM spokesman Jean-Pierre Brabant said on Wednesday that the fire was believed to be man-made, but that investigators are still trying to determine whether it was accidental or intentional.

“Our government wants the Olympic Stadium to once again become a positive symbol for the metropolis and for all of Quebec,” Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx said in a press release.

The stadium which has been a constant expense to Montreal tax payers since its inception in 1976 – when it was marred in controversy over alleged construction contracts that went well over budget and ended up costing over $1 billion dollars to build. Since then, there have numerous issues with the stadium, including the damaged roof – and huge chunks of concrete that have fallen off and come crashing to the ground below.

Furthermore, the stadium only currently hosts about 30 events a year, leaving many to wonder if the price to repair the ailing landmark is worth the cost. The Legault government insists that it is. Premier François Legault declared he wanted the venue to return to its former glory despite being well aware of high costs associated with such a process.

Proulx insists that the repairs that are set to take up to four years to complete, with increase the stadiums usage to closer to 150 events per year – and sited the recent refusal from pop star Taylor Swift to bring her Canadian tour to the stadium due to its poor shape as one of the many examples in which the aging stadium will benefit the city. The venue hasn’t had a regular tenant since the Montreal Expos baseball team left the city in 2004.

“You can love or hate the Olympic Stadium but it’s one of the symbols of Montreal,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

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Currently, there is no word on how or if the fire and the construction work that it will take to repair the damages left behind by the blaze will effect events that have been planned in the park. Both the Jackalope festival and punk band NOFX’s farewell tour are scheduled to take place outside the stadium this summer.