An Olympic-Size Error
Year Montreal Hosted the Summer Olympics: 1976
Year Canadian Citizens Finished Paying for Those Games: 2006
The 1976 Summer Games were expected to cost $300 million Canadian. Not to worry, however; city officials assured Montreal's residents that revenue from the Games would cover costs. "The Olympic Games can no more lose money than a man can have a baby," announced then-mayor Jean Drapeau. You Mister Moms out there (and there are apparently plenty of you) would be interested to know that the final bill for the 1976 Olympics came to nearly $2 billion Canadian. Much of that was public debt paid off by average Canadians, and the final payment wasn't processed until November 2006.
Obscenely underestimated costs weren't the only problem with the Games, though. The main Olympic Stadium wasn't even finished in time for the Olympics. Its progress was slowed by a construction strike, bad weather, and a physically impossible design. Ten years after the games had taken place, while construction was still ongoing, engineers had to make major changes to support the stadium's retractable roof. Unfortunately, that just led to more roof-related havoc.
During its 20 years in use, the rip-prone Kevlar top required $700,000 in annual upkeep.
Fed up, the city finally just replaced the thing with the less-flashy non-retractable kind in 1998. Still no luck. When covered with ice and snow, the new roof was unstable, forcing the stadium to close during the winter (when its value as an indoor arena would be at its highest). What's worse, now that Olympic Stadium is paid in full, the city is hesitant to take responsibility for it. That's because the facility's key tenant, baseball's Montreal Expos, relocated to Washington, D.C., in 2005.
---This summer, mental_floss is re-running parts of "The 20 Greatest Mistaikes in History," Maggie Koerth-Baker's cover story from March-April 2007. To order the back issue, click here. To see other installments in this series, click here.