In the reception salon of Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau, a cut-glass chandelier illuminates a model of the olympic Park. The stadium's parabolic mast is in place, its vetractable membrane roof hides the playing surface.
At the Viau subway station, in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, a newstand offers plastic models of the structure for $3, and they, too, contain the mast and roof.
But when Dlaude Charron looks out the window of his eighth-floor office in the Ministry of Education building, he sees a huge crane rising above the Olympic Stadium. The roof and mast are absent.
The crane was a dominant symbol during the XXI Olympaid, which concluded in the Montreal Olympic Stadium Aug. 1. It was a reminder that, despite the expenditure of almost $700 million, the complex had not been completed.
It is still unfinished, with an estimated $125 million needed for the concluding touches of architect Roger Taillibert's "Babylon Revisited," as it was christened by an American magazine,
Charron's view of the Olympic site is an important one, because he is the Quebec government minister responsible for the Olympic Installations Board, which operates the complex in the East End.
Charron must decide the most economically feasible means of finishing the stadium, if, indead, it is to be finished at all. To share the task, he appointed a committee of five experts, who meet each Friday to exchange ideas and move closer to a solution, one that Charron has insisted be "socially important and economically reasonable."
The first result of the committee's deliberations appeared Friday morning in the form of an advertisement in Montreal newspapers. "What should we do with the Olympic Village? Help us find an answer," pleaded the ad, with the public invited to submit suggestions.
If the stadium is a snow -covered white elephant, the village is an absolute disaster area. Sighsn on the fence outside read, "No dog, no baby carriage." They could add, "No people." Plans to rent the athletes' living quarters as apartments died with high cost and no demand, and the structure stands vacant against the winds that blow colder at the Olympic site than anywhee else in frigid Montreal.
The apartments face outside, into the teeth of these winds, in an architectural arrangement more suited to the French Riviera of Tailebert's inspiration. The design means inflated heating costs, along with the inconvenience of dressing warmly to reach the downstairs swimming pools.
There has been discussion of turning the village into low-cost housing. Since it was built for $95 million, it would be the most expensive low-cost housing known to man.
Across the street, the stadium conplex has seen only a bit more usage. The Montreal Alouettes played four football games in the stadium, to an average of 61,131 fans. The Expos would like to play National League baseball there, too, if the price is right, It was right, in the Expos's view, until the Liberal government was voted out of office Nov. 15 and the separatist Parti Quebecois disdained to honour the sweetheart contract that had been negotiated.
The velodrome still contains the steeply banked track of Olympic days, and major provincial competitions, have been scheduled on seven Sundays, through March 6. An ice skating rink occupies the infield and has seen some activity.
The swimming pool is a disaster area. The main pool, unifirmly 6 1/2 feet deep, is unsuitable for children and is being remodeled. The diving pool and ultradeep scuba area are open, but demand is slight.
Maintenance costs of the complex, without tenancy, have been estimated variously from $10 million to $22 million a year. On the basis, it has been suggested that the cheapest way to deal with the Olympic Park would be to blow it up.
Claude Rouleau, president of OIB, is somewhat more optimistic.
"If we forget capital expenditure, and it's well managed, it could be come profitable," Rouleau said. "Not in the next two or three years, though, and it will be very hard to do. Perhaps politicians can suggest closing the site down, but it's not a good idea with so many dollars involved."
Besides the Alouettes and Expos, only a few attractions, such as a World Cup soccer tournament or the more popular rock groups, could make reasonable use of the stadium. One hundred days would appear to maximum occupancy.
If the visible results of the $1.3 billion thus far expended on the Games seem of precious little value at this time, few persons will admit that they do not consider the Olympic experience to have been worthwhile. Fore-most among the proponents, of course, is Jean Drapeau.
He is short and balding, but obviously formidable, a man in motion, too busy generating innovative ideas to consider criticism of former projects. The Olympics were his ultimate accomplishment, but they do not dwarf Expo 67, its permanent successor Man and His World, the marvelous Metro, or the underground city concept that has permitted Montreal to thrive while other northern cities hibernate in winter.
As far as Drapeau is concerned. Montrealers answered the question of Olympics: when good or bad? on July 17, when Drapeau entered the stadium for the opening ceremony and the crowd of 70,000 greeted him with tumultuous applause. He never dounted that it would be forthcoming.
"I was absolutely sure all the population, all over Canada, was 100 per cent behind the Olympics," Drapeau said, "Any time a survey was made, the people were always behind the Games. I knew the people would be happy the moment the Games were presented.
"It was a great day not only of my life, but of all my fellow citizens. They have told me so in letters, in conversations on the street, everywhere. The proper dimensions of the Olympic Games were realy grabbed my fellow citizens. The Games were obtained, were held and proved successful. That is enough for me. Whatever the moral and financial costs, regardless of all the incidents and handicaps, the putting of questions and the raising of questions, it was worth it. No matter the difficulties, I would do it again.
There is no doubt that the Olympics fostered considerable growth in amateur sports in Canada, although it was the first host country that failed to win a gold medal.
"We have created a new world where-amateur sports is a reality," Drapeau said. "Before our radio and television never found time to present amateur sports, only the professionals. Now amateur sports are present on television, in magazines. There is pressure on municipalities, colleges and even private corporations in favor of amateur sports.
"Parents have discovered sports who never realized they could be so attractive and significant. We were fortunate to have Nadia (Comaneci). All our young couples want another Nadia. They won't have Nadia, but they will have a daughter in gymastics.
Weightlifting is developing interest. I never thought there would be a taste for weightlifting, but it will develop even more in the future. We have the installations now, and the interest, for other activities. Not just the 21 Olympic sports, either, but winter sports, and not only organized but open-air sports."
A cross-country skier using a snow-covered path along side the stadium, a subway rider with snowshoes wrapped around a gym bag, dozens of persons with skates and skis all offered sub-stantiation to these statements.
It seems likely that the mast will be completed, although possibly in structural steel, rather than in the expensive precast concrete prescribed by Taillibert and advocated by Drapeau.
Rouleau recalls that when he became OIB president in November, 1975, "I was thinking the chance of finishing the stadium in time was only 20 per cent. On Jan. 5, I was ready to recommend to the government that they stop work, because it could never be done. They told me to try again, Half the contracts were already given and there was no choice,just try to do our best."
A similar financial situation exists with the mast, an roof. Much of the material, up to $20 million worth, is already paid for and would be wasted if the project were halted. The roof is a necessity in this foul-weather area, if people are to be persuaded to drive in from outlying areas to watch base-ball.
"They can play at night in cold weather and everybody will come," Drapeau said. "If it is chilly in the stadium, the wife stays home - and her husband does, too."
Rouleau estimates that it will take 18 months after a decision on implementation is reached to complete the mast and roof installation. So far this season, at least, the wife will either shiver or stay home, possibly watching films of the Olympci Games.
The defecit is a reality, but pleasant memories often assuage the sharp edges of realism. Montrealers are proud of their Games, delighted with the worldwide focus on the city.
Bob Sirois, the Washington Capitals' winger who is a Montrealer and proud of the fact, probably put it best.
"It was the greatest thing that ever happened to this city," Sirois said. "What more could a city ask?"