This is the front cover of the ‘bid-book’ published by the City of Montréal when it was angling for the 1972 Summer Olympics (notice it says XX Olympiad), which would eventually go to Munich and be highlighted by the triumphs of Mark Spitz and the horrors of Black September. Mayor Drapeau, being the tenacious individual that he was, continued pushing for a Summer Games to be held here, despite the terrorism that marred the Munich Games. He would ultimately succeed in 1976 with an Olympic Games that helped restore faith in the games as an instrument of global diplomacy and peace, but it came at the cost of what can only be described as massive cost overruns as a result of corruption in the construction industry (sounds familiar?)
Ultimately, the legacy of the XXI Olympiad was its crippling long-run costs, though we often overlook the work done on infrastructure, the development of high density residential towers in the urban core, the boon to the tourism and hospitality industry and the publicity it generated for city & citizen alike.
The Games were not bad for business – if anything the cronyism and cost-throttling were great for private enterprises. But as far as running an Olympiad for the cost-benefits to the city, Montréal stands head and shoulders above all others as the biggest loser. So much so that the planning committee of the 1984 Los Angeles games studied Montréal specifically, in effect trying to be as much the opposite of our games as possible. Los Angeles `84 stands as the most financially profitable games of all time.
So if Peter Ueberroth (the head of the LA-84 Olympic Committee) could use our example to plan for massive success, certainly we can do the same, no? Let’s take advantage of all we’ve built and maintained since – I can imagine another Montréal games could turn a massive profit given how little would have to be built, we can simply use existing facilities. Moreover, with three airports, an expanded public and inter-city transit capability and a significantly larger number of hotel rooms, we might be able to break attendance records inasmuch as we could break revenue records.
So if the City comes to ask what I’d like for our 375th Anniversary, I can only ask for an Olympic organizing committee with a serious bid and a promise to doggedly pursue another Summer Games until we get one. 2024 isn’t that far away.