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ambassadors, spectators, security specialists, engineers, and pretty much
everyone else are all currently testing the notion that Greece’s legendary
Athens is truly “ready” to host the 2004 Summer Olympic Games—despite
widespread fears that construction and security shortfalls might prevent or
delay the safe progress of the world’s most revered collection of sporting

this anxiety is the fact that the Athens Olympic venues are following in the
longstanding Olympic tradition of architectural and engineering boldness, specifically
with the Athens Olympic Stadium designed to push the envelope of modern sports
venue design. Of course, those who ignore history are often doomed to repeat
it, and many modern Olympic pundits forget that Athens was far from the first
or only host city to face the prospect of unprepared or incomplete stadia.

security concerns rightly top the list of priorities during these Olympic
Games, and stadium design bears heavily on this subject, it’s worth noting that
another Summer Olympiad managed to proceed rather successfully despite its
centerpiece stadium being widely regarded as an architectural disaster.

The 1976
Montreal Games were an overall success in spite of the fact that the widely
anticipated Olympic Stadium, built to host the opening and closing ceremonies
as well as several showcase competitions, was not completed before, during, or
even years after the ’76 Games. Designed to incorporate a then-cutting-edge
retractable roof suspended from a massive architectural mast tower, the cost and
complexity of the design skyrocketed construction costs and forced the stadium
to open with no roof.

While most
Olympic stadia feature at least partially open designs, the technically
incomplete stadium with its largely unfinished mast tower was a major
embarrassment to Montreal during the ’76 Olympics. This blemish would exist for
more than a decade. The Olympic Stadium did not receive its vaunted roof until
1988, 11 years after Major League Baseball’s Montreal Expos began playing there—and
12 years after the Olympic Games.

such mishaps, Olympic stadia have a largely proud architectural tradition, even
where roofs are concerned. In fact, another Olympic venue featured the largest
single roof ever built, an engineering triumph still lauded today.


What former
Olympic venue featured the largest single roof ever built, an engineering
accomplishment that stands in stark contrast to the Olympic Stadium roof
debacle that plagued the 1976 Montreal Games?

Pop culture
suggests that the Germans have an innate knack for engineering, and the Munich
Olympic Stadium only reinforces that reputation. Serving as the centerpiece
venue for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games, the stadium boasts the largest roof
ever built.

The roof
comprises thousands of tiles of transparent acrylic glass arranged to form a
“tent” cover over the stadium. Supported by a steel net suspended
between several large masts, the roof covers a total area of 85,000 square
meters (915,000 square feet).

Though now
more than three decades old, the stadium (and its signature roof) still serve
as an active sports venue and tourist attraction. The FC Bayern Munchen
professional soccer club uses Munich Olympic Stadium as its home, and the Munich
Olympiapark hosts a variety of events under the glass tent.

The roof
itself, however, offers its own unique draw—a view of the Munich skyline. Just
bring 25 euros and a pair of jogging shoes on a fair-weather day when the
Olympic Stadium is vacant, and you can take an organized climbing tour of the
glass tent roof.

Think of it
as urban mountain climbing. But while you’re up there, you can also get a
glimpse of the real thing. Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, is visible
from the roof, as are the foothills of the Bavarian Alps that surround Munich.

Yet, while
Munich Olympic Stadium is an unabashed success—and has persevered as such for
more than 30 years—it seems that the legacy of Montreal, not Munich, is
destined to repeat itself. The city of Beijing will host the 2008 Summer
Olympic Games, and the Chinese government has commissioned an unorthodox and
striking design for the centerpiece Beijing Olympic Stadium.

Dubbed the
“Bird Cage” for its unusual exterior of crisscrossing architectural
ribbons, work on the 100,000-seat venue recently came to a standstill so the
government could revise the stadium design to lower costs. Such is the fate of
many an ambitious Olympic project, and such is the stuff of great Geek Trivia.

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The Quibble of the Week

If you
uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week’s Geek Trivia,
just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly
will choose the best post from the assembled masses and discuss it in the next
edition of Geek Trivia.

This week’s
quibble comes from the Aug. 4 edition of Geek Trivia, “Before
spam was spam,”
which discussed the origination of the spam
appellation. TechRepublic member Neilporter
suggested another possible, non-Monty Python etymology for junk e-mail.

I come from, Australia, and I’m also sure in the rest of the world, there’s a
very common saying: ‘when the s**t hits the fan.’ This refers to the fact that
unwanted nasty material that hits the fan will then be widely splattered all
over the place, and no one misses out. Polite people have then changed the word
[to] a nicer one, notably ‘spam.'”

While I’m
sure spam connoisseurs might quibble with your quibble, reader, I think we can
all agree that when the spam hits the fan, nobody’s happy.

The Trivia Geek, also known as Jay
Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who’s duped
TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic books,
technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.