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Tuesday, April 22
Updated: April 24, 8:52 AM ET
Olympic Stadium disaster timeline

By Jeff Merron
Special to

  • July 17, 1976: The unfinished stadium, without a roof and without a completed tower, debuts with great fanfare during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics.

    Olympic Stadium
    Water pours through a hole, believed to have been caused by snow, in the newly installed Olympic Stadium roof prior to a 1998 auto show.

  • April 15, 1977: The Expos play their first home game at Olympic Stadium, losing 7-2 to the Phillies. A crowd of 57,592 witnesses the event.

  • 1977-1986: The roof is in storage, first in France and then in Montreal, at a total cost of several million dollars.

  • 1986: Engineers determine that the tower, designed to lean at 45 degrees, won't be structurally sound if completed in concrete, as originally designed. Steel is used instead.

  • 1986: Explosions and fire in the tower interrupt an Expos game, causing $1 million in damage. Nobody is injured.

  • 1986: A chunk of steel falls from the tower and lands near the Expos bullpen while a game is in progress.

  • 1986: As the tower is being welded, sparks fly from a torch onto the roof of the swimming pool next door, causing a fire and $100,000 worth of damage.

  • 1987: The tower and roof are completed. The roof is made of 50 tons of Kevlar, a fabric from which bulletproof vests are made. When the roof is raised for the first time, it tears. As a result, it stays closed for several years.

  • April 20, 1987: The Expos play their first game under the roof.

  • June 8, 1987: Rain cascades through the roof during an Expos game, soaking fans.

  • April 4, 1988: The Mets hit six homers on Opening Day in Montreal and attribute their slugging to a strong wind blowing out. It's the first game in Olympic Stadium since the installation of a new circulation system. "With that air circulating, it's like a plane taking off to left-center," Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez said. "it's like a jet stream."

  • 1989: The roof finally becomes retractable. The umbrella-like contraption which hoists the roof up and down to the tower uses 26 cables. It takes 25 minutes to open or close, but it can't be moved when winds exceed 25 mph.

  • June 26, 1989: The Expos open a series against the Mets as Montreal experiences a beautiful, warm summer weekend. But the roof remains closed. Why? Because all the roof operators were off on a holiday. Temperatures on the field reach 95 degrees.

  • August, 1989: The roof, which had been retracted the day before so the Expos could play under clear skies, can't retract in time to keep out a surprise rainstorm. The field is covered by a tarp for the first time in three years.

    Olympic Stadium
    Workers clear snow from the top of Olympic Stadium in 1999 shortly after part of the roof caved in.

  • 1991: A tornado rips four huge holes in the stadium roof.

  • July, 1991: An Expos-Dodgers game is rained out, the first rainout in Montreal in five years. The roof is unable to keep out a rainstorm. Said Dodgers pitcher Bob Ojeda, "This roof, even when the thing worked, it didn't work."

  • 1991: Sixteen support beams snap, sending a 55-ton concrete beam crashing onto a walkway, forcing the Expos to play their last 13 home games on the road.

  • 1994: A concrete wall collapses near truck displays at an auto show.

  • 1986-98: According to one estimate, the roof costs $700,000 to maintain and repair.

  • 1998: Ice falls through the roof, forcing the cancellation of two Rolling Stones concerts.

  • 1998: Finally, the City of Montreal gives up on the Kevlar roof and removes it, replacing it with a fixed roof later that year. The Expos play a full season exposed to the elements during the interim. Rumor has it that the old roof was sold for $1 to a company that turned it into curtains.

  • 1999: One of the 63 fiberglass roof panels collapses during a snowstorm and crashes to the floor where hundreds of people are working to set up for an auto show. Hundreds of tons of snow and ice tumble down, but, miraculously, only a few people suffered minor injuries. As a result, a Muslim prayer service expected to be attended by 10,000 is cancelled. "Too bad," said one journalist. "This building can use all the prayers it can get."

  • 1999: After the snow collapse, the dome is closed during the winter, for safety reasons.

  • 2000: The company that bought the Kevlar roof starts selling it back to the citizens of Montreal in tiny pieces for $4.75 a pop.

    Jeff Merron is a regular Page 2 contributor.

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