on October 20, 2009
The Olympic stadium was high on our list of priorities when we went to Montreal as it seems to be my boyfriend's ambition to visit every Olympic stadium ever built - much to my dismay! But it turned out to be well worth a look.HISTORY: Montreal was awarded the Olympics by the IOC in 1970. Representatives travelled to Munich in 1972 to see how they managed the games. The construction of the site began in 1973 and the games were held 3 years later in 1976. Not all of the complex was finished for the games. The tower was not completely finished until 1987. After the Olympics the stadium became home to the Montreal baseball team (until they moved to Washington D.C.). It now holds various sporting events and trade shows. The swimming pool complex is now used by the public and the velodrome is now home to a biodome which house 4 different ecosystems. LOCATION:The stadium is located a few miles from downtown Montreal. The easiest way to reach it is the metro. Take the green line to Viau station. Pie IX station also says Olympic Stadium but the exit at Viau is much closer to the entrance to the stadium. We didn't have a car so I'm not sure about parking but I'm pretty sure there would have been some. COST:There were various prices and packages available. Plan carefully because combination tickets are cheaper, so make sure that you know exactly what you want to do when you buy your tickets. Packages:Tower and guided tour Prices (taxes included)$17.75 - Adults $14.25 - Students and seniors (65 years +) $10.75 - Children (5 to 17 years) Free - Up to 4 years old Tower and BiodomePrices (taxes included) $21.50 - Adults $16.25 - Students and seniors (65 years +) $10.75 - Children (5 to 17 years) Free - Up to 4 years oldTower and Botanical Garden + Insectarium Prices (taxes included) $21.50 - Adults $16.25 - Students and seniors (65 years +)$10.75 - Children (5 to 17 years) Individual Attractions:Tower:Prices (taxes included) $15.00 - Adults $11.25 - Students and seniors (65 years +) $7.50 - Children (5 to 17 years) Free - Up to 4 years old Guided tour of the stadium:Prices (taxes included) $8.00 - Adults $6.00 - Students and seniors (65 years +) $4.00 - Children (5 to 17 years) Free - Up to 4 years old OPENING HOURS: The tower is open from 9-7 in the summer and 9-5 in the winter, 7 days a week. The tours go from 10 in the summer and from 11 in the winter and are less frequent in the winter.THE EXPERIENCE: We weren't that interested in the Biodome so opted for a ticket to combine a tour of the stadium and a trip up the tower. We started with the tower.The tower is around 175 metres high and (factoid alert!) the tallest inclined tower in the world at an angle of 45 degrees at one point. We were herded through to a waiting area and then made our way onto the funicular. This went pretty rapidly up the outside of the tower. It made us feel a bit dizzy, especially my boyfriend who hates heights, so if you really get nervous then I probably wouldn't recommend this. We got to the top we walked out onto a viewing platform room. Unlike a lot of towers this one doesn't have an outside platform, much to the relief of my other half! There are windows on 3 sides of the platform as well as 2 'holes' where you can look down to the roof of the stadium below. The views were fantastic even though it was very hazy when we went. Over the windows there are pictures with labels to show you what you are looking at which is very useful. There were also telescopes which we gave a miss as you had to pay extra for them. We were very impressed with the views, you can see all of downtown Montreal, the river and the mountain. If it was too hazy I would say that the tower would not be worth going up as it really the view that you pay for. It was just about OK when we went but had it been any worse I think I would have been disappointed. Also on the floor was a small shop selling the usual tourist fare, and toilets. We made our way back down the funicular and ended up with wobbly legs at the bottom!While we waited for our tour we looked around the small Olympics exhibition they have. This whole area, the base of the tower, which included a 'restaurant' ie a fast food place, a shop and the swimming pool complex did not exactly scream 'appealing to me. The area looked outdated and a bit unkempt. The exhibition was basically a few information panels on the Olympics as well as the posters from all the Olympics and winter Olympics, which my boyfriend loved but didn't enthrall me. That wasn't because I don't like sport, I do, but the area just put me off a bit. There was also an exhibition on the 'great' towers of the world and you'll be glad to know that the UK can claim two, the BT Tower and Blackpool Tower! We were then met by our guide. In the summer the tours alternate between English and French whereas in the winter they are one tour and it is presented bilingually. The guide first led us to some scale models of the park and told us a bit about the games. We then went into the swimming pool complex where she gave us a lot of information on the different pools. We saw the main pool, the children's pool and the dive pool. There was also a scuba diving pool and relaxation pool and a warm up pool which were out of view. From the pools we moved outside where the guide told us a bit about the tower. She said that it took a long time to complete and that they had to change the material from concrete to steel half way up because it was too heavy! She also explained that the tower was designed to support the stadium's roof, which was originally retractable, but that they had so many problems with it that it is now a fixed roof.I found the area outside the stadium very shabby looking. It wasn't dirty as such, but there were weeds everywhere and I found this very strange, especially as the stadium was to be used for the opening ceremony of the 'Out Games' a couple of days later. Inside the stadium was the same story, outdated and tired looking. It probably didn't help that all the bars were covered in what looked like cling film! Inside our guide explained that the seating had changed since the games and that the scoreboard had moved etc to allow for baseball and American football. We were a little disappointed by this tour. Although the guide explained everything it all seemed a bit parrot fashion and we were also expecting to see more. We only got to sit in the stadium for 5 minutes and didn't get to see backstage at all but perhaps this was because of the preparations for the games.We didn't go into the Biodome but there were lots of people going in and it looked quite interesting. Overall we spent around 2 hours in the Olympic Park. You could spend a lot longer if you did the biodome as well.MY VERDICT: I did really enjoy this visit but I was left disappointed by some parts. The tower was fantastic and unless you really can't stand heights I would thoroughly recommend it. The views were great and the experience of travelling up the funicular was exhilarating. However, I found the tour to be a bit quick and not hugely interesting. The guide knew what she was talking about but I wouldn't like to have tested her knowledge too far! You couldn't get up close to the pools or the pitch area of the stadium and it all felt a little bit whistle stop. The prices, I thought were about average, although for what you saw you could expect to pay less. For those with kids, unless they really are huge sports fans, I would take them to the biodome instead of the tour as I think it would hold more interest and certainly seemed to be where the kids were headed. Altogether, definitely worth a look and a must for sports enthusiasts. The tower I would go to again but I would not bother with the stadium again, although it was interesting to see it.
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