Since this blog is as much a family history as it is a blog focused on more generic genealogy matters, and since the blog is gradually being reproduced in book form for my sons and other descendants, I often include posts that are more personal history than "genealogy." The reason being that personal events from our family's lives will become "genealogy factoids" to enrich the understanding of us for our future descendants and relatives. As I have written before, these bits of personal information that I call "genealogy factoids" are "little bits of information that were important in the lives of [family members], but they are not the kind of facts that are likely to be found in some public document or record in the future -- the kind of document records generally accorded the status of primary sources." [See, this post for my original thoughts on the role of genealogy factoids in family histories and on genealogy-related blogs http://filiopietismprism.blogspot.com/search/label/Genealogy%20Factoids]
This post is one of those genealogy factoid pieces that recounts events that will soon be lost to future generations if not recorded and preserved in some manner. This genealogy factoid is admittedly lengthy and is being published first in blog form, but will eventually be reproduced in hard copy in one of the book volumes that preserves this blog against the loss or demise of the electronic version.
Forty years ago last month, the closing ceremonies of the 21st Olympiad took place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada -- almost exactly three weeks to the day before Molly and I were married. We attended the Olympics in Montreal and had not been back until just a couple of weeks ago . . . which accounts for the hiatus from posting on this blog for the almost three weeks we were gone.
Shown above are the original Guide we obtained for the Montreal Olympics and the summary schedule of the times and locations for the various competitions. "Athletics" on the schedule is what we generally call "track and field events" and, as a long-time competitive runner, I had a particular interest in those events.
The 1976 summer Olympics was the one where: Bruce Jenner won the decathlon with a record-setting 8,634 points; Nadia Comaneci became the first person ever to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics; runner Lasse Viren of Finland repeated for the first time gold medal performances in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races; Alberto Juantorena of Cuba became the first man ever to win both the 400 and 800 meter races in an Olympics; five American boxers (Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon and Michael Spinks, Leo Randolph, and Howard Davis, Jr.) won gold; the U.S. men's swim team won every gold but one and Jim Naber himself won four golds and a silver; American hurdler Edwin Moses set a world record in the 400 meter hurdles less than a year after he first took up the event; and John Walker of New Zealand, the first man to run the mile under 3:50, won the 1,500 meter race.
The Montreal Olympics was the first summer Olympics after the 1972 tragedy in Munich when eleven members of the Israeli team were taken hostage by the Palestinian Black September terrorists and executed. All eyes were on Montreal hoping for a return to peaceful, non-political competitions. Two major issues presented themselves as the Olympics approached. One was whether or not there would be a timely completion of the various competition venues along with the debt that was being incurred to stage the first Olympic games located in Canada. The other was the boycott of the 1976 Olympics by 29 mostly African nations to protest the decision not to ban New Zealand from the games due to the New Zealand rugby team's tour of South Africa contrary to the U.N. sporting embargo call against South Africa.
As construction on the Olympic sites proceeded, it became obvious that the preparations were running behind schedule and the Province of Quebec finally stepped in and took over the construction. It was decided that certain aspects of the construction would be limited or halted so that only what was necessary to stage the games would be completed. As a result, the tower at the Olympic stadium, which was designed to raise and lower a retractable roof was stopped and never completed until after the games were over. And although the mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, said "The Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby" . . . the staging of the games left a debt of $1 billion and the Province of Quebec told Montreal it was responsible for paying off the debt. It took Montreal over thirty years to eliminate the debt.
In 1976 my entire family drove from New Jersey to Montreal -- my parents, my two brothers, my sister and I. My sister had her future husband with her, the older of my two brothers had his future wife with him, and Molly was with me. The younger of my two brothers was only 15 at the time and he was solo and probably feeling somewhat left out. We stopped at the summer home of Molly's parents on Lake Placid both going to and coming home from the Olympics. It was a major event and a highlight of our family cohesion before we went off to form families of our own. We traveled north from New Jersey with a camper, two cars, tents, and a dining fly and set up our Olympics camp at a very comfortable campgrounds within easy distance of bus and Metro routes into Montreal and the Olympic sites.
|Our campsite for the Montreal Olympics -- two Ford Pintos, a Chevy truck with a camper body, tents and a dining fly.|
|Most of the family -- my younger brother, my other brother's future wife, my sister's future husband, my parents, and Molly in the blue skirt with me in the yellow t-shirt.|
During the Olympics, Molly and I were up early every day and off to see various events immediately after a quick breakfast. We usually did not return until after dark and we made maximum use of the Metro (subway) and busses to see as much of the games and the city as we could manage. When we did not both have tickets for an event, we hung around outside the venue until folks who had purchased excess tickets dropped the price to or below actual cost in order to not lose their entire investment. We saw several extra events this way. We visited the site of the Expo '67 world's fair on an island in the Saint Lawrence river that we heard was created using the slag and tailings from the construction of the subway system. We had a few very nice meals including a wonderful alfresco lunch at Place Jacques-Cartier, a car-free square down by the Old Port of Montreal.
We had not been back to Montreal in over 40 years when we decided to visit again as we celebrated our 40th anniversary this summer. When we returned to Montreal a few weeks ago, we sought out some of the locations we remembered from the Olympics 40 years ago and we explored some new parts of the city. Below are some "then and now" photographs.
|My parents on a bench overlooking the Velodrome (center left) and the Olympic stadium showing the lower part of the unfinished stadium tower to the right (1976).|
|The Olympic stadium during the 1976 Montreal Olympics.|
|A view of the incomplete stadium tower with the stadium in the background during the Olympics (July 1976).|
|A view of the stadium with completed tower and the Center for Sports Medicine (Sept. 2016).|
|Close up of the stadium tower showing men doing periodic repairs and illustrating the scale of the stadium and tower (Sept. 2016)|
When we re-visited the Olympic stadium campus, we decided to pay for a tour of the stadium where we had viewed so many competitive events in 1976. It was very interesting to see the inner sanctums of the stadium, to see some future Canadian olympians practicing their diving, and to actually stand on the floor of the mammoth stadium interior where so many memorable and historic performances had occurred in 1976.
|Inside the completed and mammoth stadium. Notice that a roof is now in place and after having to replace and repair the retractable roof post-Olympics, the roof is now a permanent roof of Kevlar and carbon composite. (Sept. 2016)|
During our return to Montreal, we also ventured out to the island where Expo '67 took place and that was repurposed as "Man and His World." The 1967 world's fair, called Expo '67, was so popular that rather than raze all the buildings, it was kept as a collection of international pavilions and renamed "Man and His World" ("Terre des Hommes" in French) until the buildings fell into disrepair. In 1971 it was closed for three years and completely rebuilt around what would be the rowing and canoeing basin for the coming Olympics with a few pavilions left after some were demolished to make room for the Olympic rowing basin, boathouses and changing rooms. The U.S. pavilion was a huge geodesic dome (200 feet high and 250 feet in diameter) designed by Buckminster Fuller with an outer skin and interior that housed four platforms with seven exhibit levels. Just two months before the Olympics opened, a fire burned away the outer skin leaving only the geodesic frame and the interior platforms. The former pavilion site was closed until 1990 and has become what is now known as the "Biosphere," an interactive environmental museum. By the late 1970s the pavilions at the site had become so dilapidated that is was said to resemble the ruins of a futuristic city that had been abandoned and vandalized. The site closed permanently in 1984 and in subsequent years the interlocking forms that were the "Habitat 67" pavilion became private residences owned by its tenants. The former French and Quebec pavilions are now the Montreal Casino.
|Close up from the street level of the former Habitat 67 (Sept. 2008).|
|Panorama of the former Habitat 67 as seen from the port of Montreal (April 2006).|
|The former U.S. pavilion at Expo '67 showing the geodesic structure and the exhibit platforms after the burning of the outer skin. It is now an environmental museum known as the "Biosphere" (Sept. 2016).|
|Molly standing before the Biosphere (Sept. 2016).|
After visiting the Biosphere, we crossed the bridge to see the former Olympic rowing basin where we had watched several events during the 1976 games. We soon discovered that several different triathlon events were taking place and we stayed for a few hours to watch. Like many former Olympic sites the basin has been repurposed and is used extensively for sporting events.
|Observation tower at the former Olympic basin showing the logo for the 1976 Montreal Olympics (Sept. 2016)|
|The former Olympic basin where triathlons were being hosted during our visit. The finish line is shown in the distance and the stands and observation tower are to the left (Sept. 2016).|
During the Olympics, we decided we had to see the Olympic Village where the athletes were housed during the games. In 1998 the buildings were bought by Metcap Living, Inc. for $64.7 million. In 2004 El-Ad Group bought the buildings and they were reportedly sold in August 2012 for $177.5 million. They are now private residences. Below are photos of the Village as we saw them in 1976 and a more recent photo from 2008.
|My mother standing by a fire hydrant with the Olympic Village in the background (July 1976)|
|A close-up with a street level view of the Olympic Village (July 1976).|
|Aerial view of the former Olympic Village as of September 14, 2008.|
Of course we had to visit some of the restaurants in Montreal and so we ventured back to Place Jacques-Cartier where we recalled having a wonderful alfresco lunch 40 years ago during a break from the Olympics to visit downtown Montreal. The statue of Lord Nelson is still on his pedestal at the top of the sloping, stone-tiled square, but it was all scaffolded and undergoing repairs. The square looked much as it did decades ago with restaurants and outdoor eating down both sides to the port. We had another very enjoyable alfresco meal on a side street just off the Place Jacques-Cartier.
|Statue of Lord Nelson undergoing repairs at the top of Place Jacques-Cartier (Sept. 2016)|
|Place Jacques-Cartier looking down toward the port from the statue of Lord Nelson (Sept. 2016).|
|The side street where we decided to have lunch alfresco (Sept. 2016).|
|Overlooking Montreal from the top of Parc du Mont Royal. Note the Biosphere in the middle distance (Sept. 2016).|
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All images from original photos or materials owned by and in the collection of the author except: the 1976 Montreal Olympic logo obtained from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1976_Summer_Olympics_logo.png and is said to be in the public domain; the images of the former Habitat 67 housing complex for which general permission to copy, distribute and/or modify has been granted by the creators https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Montreal_-_QC_-_Habitat67.jpg and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Habitat_panorama.jpg; and the September 2008 image of the Olympic Village for which general permission to copy, distribute and/or modify has been granted by the creator https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Montreal_-_QC_-_Olympisches_Dorf.jpg.
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Copyright 2016, John D. Tew
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