This week’s announcement that Montreal is likely to host at least a few of the 2026 World Cup soccer games immediately reminded us that our Olympic stadium is in dire need of some major renovation work. It’s the only appropriate venue to host such a large-scale event, but it falls short of two major FIFA requirements: a natural grass field (no astroturf!) and a (functioning!) retractable roof.
RELATED: Montreal’s Big O is Getting a New Roof (November 2017)
Montrealers are well aware of the Olympic Stadium’s rooftop woes… When it was inaugurated for the 1976 Olympics, the stadium’s tower wasn’t even completed. It took 13 more years (!!!) for a retractable roof to finally be installed and functional on the “Big O”.
That roof was a source of pride and awe for Montrealers, and at first it seemed to work pretty well! This TQS report from 1989 shows the inaugural “roof opening” ceremony that took place in June 1989, 29 years ago.
Although everything seemed fine back then, the 1989 roof tore just two years into its life… It was eventually replaced by the current roof, which was installed by Birdair in 1998. Unfortunately, that roof also tore, just one year after its installation. It has since torn many more times, and the stadium can no longer be used in winter due to the increased risk of tears developing when there is snow.
Meanwhile, the stadium’s governing body, the Régie des installations Olympiques (RIO) has studied numerous other options, including fixed roofs and retractable metal roofs… But no definitive plan has yet been announced.