Every big city I know has some towering structure to show off. Sorta chest thumping in their own concrete jungle. Or displaying the ultimate urban phallic symbol for all to see. While Dubai has Burj Khalifa, Kuala Lumpur has Petronas Towers, Paris has the Eiffel, Montréal has its own rising above the city - the Montréal Tower.
What makes this tower unique is not so much for its height. At 165 meters high, it ain't in the league of the super statuesque out there. It's not even Montréal's tallest. Rather, the fact that it's leaning at an angle of 45 degrees - more than the Tower of Pisa's 5-degree incline - makes it a very unique structure in its own right.
It is the world's tallest man-made leaning tower.
|In Montréal's Chinatown, even Chinese fortune cookies churn out French|
We arrived into French-speaking Montréal late in the afternoon. Like the rest of North America in summer, it wasn't getting dark well past 9 PM so we drove eastward away from city center into Parc Olympique (Olympic Park), home to many of the venues of the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Lording it over the entire park is the tower, connected to the massive Le Stade Olympique de Montréal (Montréal Olympic Stadium). From where we stood, the tower looks like an inverted torch leaning way too much, as if about to crash into the stadium itself. Outside on its curved spine is a bi-level funicular bringing guests to the top. We joined the queue to pay for entrance tickets.
|Partial view of the stadium rooftop|
When the stadium was being built in the early 1970s, the French architect Roger Taillibert envisioned a tower which will serve as a mast for the retractable roof. However, delays kept plaguing the project: worker's strike, budget overruns, and the unusual design itself. The Montreal Olympic Games opened with a partially finished stadium (without a roof) and without the tower that we now see.
Only after the 1976 games did construction on the tower resumed and an observatory was added to the plan. In 1987, or eleven years later, the tower and the stadium's roof finally got completed. Construction cost had ballooned to more than a billion Canadian dollars, leaving Montrealers gasping at this so-called "Big Owe" (Taxpayers had to shoulder paying this enormous debt after all). To make matters worse, ongoing repair and maintenance costs are high.
Not surprisingly, going up the tower is an expensive experience - we shelled 22.50 CAD per person. The sting is even more pronounced with the currently weaker US dollar. But lo and behold, many of those taking the ride were actually Americans. Two minutes was all it took for the 76-person capacity funicular to haul all of us to the tower's observatory.
Up there, we got great views of downtown Montréal, St. Lawrence river, and all other attractions within the Olympic Park. Great views which momentarily make me forget the hefty cost of going up there.