For a while it looked as if the 1976 Olympics might not take place—at least not in Montreal. Construction of various facilities was set back by repeated strikes in 1974, especially one by the ironworkers that lasted eight weeks at year's end, and it was feared that the spectacular 70,000-seat Olympic Stadium could not be completed in time. There were financial worries, too. The original budget of $310 million turned out to be embarrassingly inadequate and the Olympic planners finally had to admit that $650 million would come much closer to the actual cost.
The rest of the world worried, and alternate sites such as D√ºsseldorf and Teheran were proposed. Lord Killanin, the president of the International Olympic Committee, demanded to know, "What the devil is going on out there?" But the mood of the Organizing Committee in Montreal remained one of confidence, not to say serenity, as it is today. The men in charge continue to work with an air of unhurried composure, and even the city's cab drivers believe that the Games will open on schedule on July 17, 1976. Although the Olympic Stadium is still a hole in the ground, as is "the world's largest Holiday Inn" downtown, who could not be caught up in the enthusiasm of Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau, who has never doubted—at least publicly—that the Games would be held in his city. When he appeared at a special IOC meeting in Lausanne recently, he said, "There is no crisis over the Games," and soon afterward the Montreal City Council authorized a generous $250 million credit toward the completion of the Olympic site.
The sole distributor for the 700,000 Olympic tickets that have been allotted to the U.S. is Montgomery Ward. Starting May 15, all of Ward's 2,300 retail and catalog stores across the country will have schedules of events and order forms. They can also be requested in writing from Montgomery Ward Auto Club—Olympics, P.O. Box 4000, Taylor, Mich. 48180; a quarter or a 25¢ stamp should be enclosed to cover mailing expenses for the handsome detailed catalog listing all Olympic events with the code numbers by which tickets can be ordered. Completed order forms must be sent to the Auto Club—Olympics, Select-a-Seat Office, P.O. Box 2000, Phoenix, Ariz. 85001, before Aug. 15, 1975, and, since sales are strictly on a pay-now-play-later basis, the forms must be accompanied by personal check or money order covering ticket prices (there is no tax) plus a 60¢-per-ticket surcharge for processing. Neither cash nor charge accounts are acceptable. Requests will be handled on a first-come-first-served basis, which means that the forms arriving in Phoenix will be rushed through time-stamp machines to establish priority, then fed into the Select-A-Seat computer.
Customers can order up to 10 tickets in each price category for an event, but those wishing to attend the most popular sports should get their applications on the way in a hurry. The computer will not issue any substitutions. However, prompt refunds will be made—including the 60¢ surcharge—for any orders that cannot be filled. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, and will be informed within three weeks by confirmation voucher of the status of their orders, but the tickets themselves will not be mailed before June 1976. If by that time a purchaser is no longer able to attend the Games, he cannot return or exchange the tickets, but he can sell them privately.
Prices range from $40 for the opening and closing ceremonies to $2—mostly standing room—for elimination heats or qualifying rounds. Standing room at the opening and closing ceremonies is a whopping $8. The best seats in the Olympic Stadium for track and field events, including finals, cost $24 a day, while standing room goes for $4. On the last day, when there are eight finals, tickets range from $32 to $8. In swimming, an evening of final races and diving competition enjoyed in comfort will cost $24; for standing room it's $4 plus four hours' worth of aching feet. The popular basketball final (perhaps the U.S. vs. Russia again) is listed at $6 to $24 per seat. Even at the canoeing finals, tickets cost from $3 to $12, and not a single baby in its mother's arms can slip in for free.
The distribution of accommodations also will not begin before next month, but it is not too early to request an application form by writing to Hébergement Québec-Olympiques 76, 201 Crémazie East, Montreal, Québec H2M 1L2, Canada. Complete and return the form immediately. Those who have bitter memories of Expo 67 can be sure that the chances of being fleeced for poor or nonexistent accommodation in '76 have been greatly decreased. Hébergement Québec—HEQUO 76—is a government-appointed agency, its honesty safeguarded by a special law. Visitors will have to make a deposit of 20% upon confirmation of specific accommodations, with the balance due 90 days before the Games. The deposits will be kept in a trust account at a bank.
HEQUO 76 expects about 110,000 tourists a day during the Olympics and claims to have 200,000 beds available. "We can offer any type of lodging from a $1 space in a youth hostel to a $100 suite at the Ch√¢teau Champlain, the Ritz-Carlton, the Bonaventure or the Queen Elizabeth," says Gilles Bergeron of HEQUO, but anybody who is not a high-ranking official or cherished customer stands hardly a chance of being lodged in these luxury hotels. They all have been swamped with requests far beyond the number of rooms available. "We can't promise anything," says one exasperated hotel manager. "We don't know how many rooms we will have left after the Olympic Organizing Committee has taken their quota for VIPs. The committee is trying to run the hotel business but they don't know anything about it."
In addition to the top four, there are about 27 hotels in the city classified from excellent to comfortable, and eight new hotels are being built. HEQUO proudly lists the Méridien in the deluxe class and the 38-story Holiday Inn—the aforementioned hole in the ground—although Holiday Inn officials announced during the recent construction workers' strike that the outlook for the completion of the building by July 1976 was very bleak indeed. It is therefore a stroke of luck that the Laurentien, a Sheraton-operated 1,001-room hotel around the corner from the Holiday Inn site, was saved from demolition. At present, 700 of its rooms are being redecorated. More Old World charm can be found at the Sheraton Mont-Royal nearby which has 1,015 rooms.
Besides hotels and motels, the HEQUO application form offers further choices: students' quarters at universities, private homes, tourist rooms and efficiency apartments, youth hostels (bring your sleeping bag) and camping grounds for tents and trailers. Even rooms in nunneries are available, where, admittedly, one or two bathrooms would have to be shared with the rest of the occupants. All facilities will be inspected by HEQUO officials, who will also determine maximum prices, even including parking fees at public lots. A single at a medium-priced hotel will cost around $12, a double at a luxury hotel up to $80. Student residences will be priced from $6 for single to $18 for double occupancy. Apartments go from $25 a day for a studio to $60 for three bedrooms. The average daily fee for a camping location will come to $6.
Sailing fans may wish to stay at the Kingston site on Lake Ontario, some 175 miles from Montreal; archery followers at Joliette, 45 miles away; and some semifinal soccer games will draw spectators to Toronto. But even those whose favorite sports are staged in Montreal itself may want to stay outside the city. The Laurentians, with many cozy resort lodges, are only a two-hour bus ride away via the new Autoroute, and Mont Tremblant is at least as delightful in summer as it is during the ski season. And to console yourself for having missed out on that plush Champlain suite, you can always take the family to a pheasant dinner at Le St. Amable in Vieux Montréal. For four, it, too, costs $100.