Canada: Retractable roof not right for the Olympic Stadium

source:; author: Mateusz Osmola

Canada: Retractable roof not right for the Olympic Stadium Olympic Park in Montreal is working on replacing the stadium's roof. The current canopy is causing numerous problems and even threatens the safety of the spectators. The team in charge of the project is currently preparing a business case with the support of the Quebec Infrastructure Society and the Ministry of Tourism.


Nicknamed “the Big O”, the 66,308-capacity Olympic Stadium is a multi-purpose venue in Montreal, Canada, located in Olympic Park, in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve area. It is one of the most unusual and iconic stadiums in history, but also one of the most controversial.

It took 30 years to finally cover all of its costs. At the same time the structure itself is not only unconventional but also very problematic. Stadium was designed by famous French architect Roger Tallibert, who is also responsible for the blueprint of Parc des Princes, among others.

Olympic Stadium© Lilia Laurent (cc: by-sa)

Due to the elaborate design, the main Summer Olympics venue was not completed before the 1976 Games. The roof was originally planned as a retractable one, moved with steel ropes overhanging the 175-meter tower. That system proved impossible to implement, however, and the canopy became permanent. As unique as it was, the structure proved to be unsafe. Over the years, the structure sustained damage several times and luckily nobody got hurt. In 1986, part of the tower fell off onto the pitch during the game. A year later the membrane was installed over the playing field and started leaking and tearing soon afterwards.

After the Olympics, artificial turf was installed in the venue, and the stadium became home to Montreal's professional baseball and football teams. Issues with the roof prevent regular hockey games from being played there. Although ice hockey is the most popular sport in Canada, in recent years the center of world hockey seems to be further south, in Florida. The Tampa Bay Lightning have reached the Stanley Cup finals in the last three seasons, winning the trophy twice. In 2021, beating the Montreal Canadians 4-1. NHL fans in Florida can bet on their local team on

Olympic Stadium© Olivier Kerbidi

Olympic Park's website reported that the Pomerleau-Canam Group (GPC) is the onlyorganization that applied during the qualifying acquisition (QA). "Although we would have liked to have seen more companies or groups of companies apply, the proposal submitted by GPC was deemed compliant and scored sufficiently to be invited to participate in the Call for Proposals. We are still in discussions with the government regarding scenarios related to the QA result."

So far, installation of the new roof is still scheduled for 2024, as indicated in thepreliminary timetable. According to the established process, the reference schedule for the project will be included in the Business Case, which must receive green light from the government.

Olympic Stadium© jalvaro2012 (cc: by-nc)

Additionally, a study of the possibility of a partially removable roof was conducted with thesupport of experts in the field. It was concluded that while such a structure is a probability, it is a concept that has not been implemented anywhere else in the world, and will therefore depend on unproven technology. This will result in additional technical risks related to reliability, tightness and durability.

The Olympic Park Authority has always attached the utmost importance to the quality of the roof, and since very few events were held outdoors, the need for a partially retractable canopy was not justified. A permanent roofing is the best option and also meets Olympic Park's operational needs. The priority is to have a functional canopy that stands up well to the Montreal climate in order to use the Olympic Stadium year-round. The new structure will be translucent to let in natural light.