Revisit the glory of the 1976 Montréal Olympics at these sports venues
The 1976 Summer Olympics remain a point of pride for Montréalers, and the city’s landscape and skyline still sparkles with Olympic magic. And unlike some other Olympic cities, Montréal’s venues are still hosting world-class sporting events over 40 years later. Here’s a look at some memorable 1976 Olympic venues that will give your next sporting event a hint of Olympic glory.
The Olympic Stadium
You want iconic? A modernist architectural wonder with a hint of H. R. Giger-esque fantasy, the Olympic Stadium turns everything up to 11. Host to major sporting events, opera spectacles and some unforgettable rock concerts, the Olympic Stadium has thrilled up to 60,000 spectators in its hallowed seats. But there’s more than first meets the eye –spaces like the VIP boxes, Salon 300 and the East Hall and East Mezzanine are great spots for smaller events requiring a touch of sports glory.
The Olympic Park
The Olympic Park is home to more than just the stadium. There’s also the Olympic Park Sports Centre with no less than seven pools, a sports medical centre and a well-stocked gym that’s a regular host venue for international swimming and diving competitions. Outside, the Esplanade hosts a multitude of events ranging from the First Fridays Street Food Festival and the community festivities of Les Jardineries, to outdoor performances by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the eye-popping Jackalope action sports competition. There’s even the medals podium for those gold medal visitor photos. And towering over it all, The Montréal Tower is the world’s tallest inclined tower with unbeatable 360-degree views, recipient of its own gold medal in the form of the Michelin Guide’s highest rating of three stars for a tourist attraction.
On the edge of the Olympic Park, the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau played host to the wrestling events of the 1976 games, and today continues to host world-class contact sport competitions ranging from judo to boxing.
Named for local legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard of the Montréal Canadiens hockey team (who you won’t want to miss in our list of unforgettable Montréal sports moments), the Maurice-Richard Arena hosted Olympic boxing and wrestling matches in front of an audience 4,700 fans strong. Today it’s a regular host for hockey games, rock concerts and training by the Canadian short track speed skating team.
Montréal Botanical Garden and the Space for Life museums
For the 1976 games, the Montréal Botanical Garden hosted both the 20km walk and the running portion of the pentathlon. Now part of the Space for Life group of museums, the Botanical Garden offers several venues for meetings and events in a truly bucolic setting. The Olympic Games’ Velodrome now houses the Montréal Biodôme, and newer structures like the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium and the Insectarium are changing the face of the quartier Olympique.
Claude-Robillard Sports Complex
Built in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough, the Claude-Robillard Sports Complex was the site of the exciting handball and water polo competitions in 1976. Today, the centre is an example of multi-purpose use and versatility, hosting a range of sports including track and field activities, baseball, tennis, soccer, fencing, ultimate Frisbee and archery amongst others.
The Percival-Molson Stadium at McGill University
Currently home to the Montréal Alouettes football team, the Percival-Molson Stadium was built for the students of McGill University in 1915. In 1976, the stadium hosted the field hockey competitions, and fact fans will love to know it was also the world’s first Olympic stadium outfitted with artificial turf.
Housed on the campus of the University de Montréal, CEPSUM hosted the fencing portions of the ’76 Olympics. Since then, the CEPSUM has seen action in sports as varied as volleyball, golf, squash and racquetball, ice hockey, swimming and diving. It’s also home to the UdM’s kinesiology and sports medicine departments.
Since hosting the basketball preliminaries at the 1976 Olympics, the Centre Étienne-Desmarteau has expanded its focus to gymnastics, indoor soccer and ice hockey – with two ice rinks, no less.
Host to the weightlifting section of the 1976 Olympics, the Saint-Michel Arena is now a multi-purpose space used for hockey and speed skating, amongst other uses. In 2018, a $21-million renovation project was announced to update the facilities back to Olympian standards.
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