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  1. http://www.playthecity.nl/ Play the City Play the City uses gaming to engage multiple stakeholders in resolving complex urban challenges. Changing the way we engage stakeholders, Play the City designs physical games as a method for collaborative decision making and conflict resolution. We tailor our games according to the questions of our clients. These can relate to large urban projects, refugee camps, violence prevention and other multi-stakeholder challenges societies face. We use gaming as a problem-solving method bringing top down decision makers together with bottom up stakeholders. In the accessible environment of games, freed from the jargons, various ideas, plans and projects meet, conflict and collaborate towards negotiated outcomes. We believe gaming is the real alternative to standard formats of public consultation in the 21st century. Our method has been acknowledged internationally and has been implemented for large-scale projects in Amsterdam, Istanbul, Brussels and Cape Town. You can gain more insight by clicking our projects page. sent via Tapatalk
  2. Infrastructure crumbling? An international sports event might be just the answer LINDA GYULAI, The Gazette Published: 23 hours ago Big international events snag big bucks. Toronto and its neighbouring cities are hoping that formula will equal $1 billion to build or upgrade local sports and recreation facilities if they win a joint bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games. "It's the single most important objective," former Ontario premier David Peterson, who was named by Premier Dalton McGuinty to head the region's bid, said in an interview with The Gazette. "There seems to be a massive deficit of infrastructure here." The region will know in a year whether it has the event, Peterson said. The province hasn't hosted a significant international sports event since the 1930s. Cities all around Toronto say they need everything from swimming pools to gyms. Hamilton said this month it will have to close more than half its recreation centres, pools and arenas within a decade if it doesn't deal with a $20-million backlog of repairs and upgrades. And a 2005 survey of 2,560 municipal arenas, pools and community centres by Parks and Recreation Ontario, an association, found their average was 32. The facilities require $5 billion in repairs and upgrades, the study concluded. The bulk of federal sport infrastructure funding in recent years has gone to western Canada, which has hosted the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Pan American Games, said Michelle Gendron, spokesperson for Sports-Québec, a provincial association of sport federations representing 90 activities. Vancouver will host the 2010 winter Olympics. Montreal's last major international hurrah, the '76 Olympics, sparked the city's last sport and recreation building boom. But politicians have done a 100-metre dash from the idea of hosting another major event after the games left a $1-billion deficit. Mayoral candidate Benoit Labonté has proposed Montreal bid for the 2020 world fair as a catalyst for the city's renewal. After all, Montreal got a métro system for Expo 67. It's the right idea, but the wrong event to generate cash for Montreal's worn-out sports and recreation facilities, Gendron said. "It takes a sporting event to generate investment in sport facilities." Even a smaller international sporting event brings a windfall, she said. The 2005 World Aquatics Championships, for instance, led to the upgrade of the swimming pools on Île Ste. Hélène.
  3. Quel choix de sujet pour l'article sur Montreal cette semaine dans la section CITIES dans The Guardian quand on compare avec l'article publie sur Toronto ! Jack Todd me déçoit beaucoup ! Welcome to the new Toronto: the most fascinatingly boring city in the world https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jul/04/new-toronto-most-fascinatingly-boring-city-guardian-canada-week https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jul/06/40-year-hangover-1976-olympic-games-broke-montreal-canada?CMP=fb_a-cities_b-gdncities#comments Cities Guardian Canada week The 40-year hangover: how the 1976 Olympics nearly broke Montreal The Montreal Olympics left the city with a C$1.6bn debt, a string of corruption scandals, and a creeping sense of economic and social decline. Forty years on, how did the city survive? Mayor Jean Drapeau stands in the Olympic Stadium, Montreal. Photograph: Graham Bezant/Toronto Star/Getty Cities is supported by Jack Todd in Montreal Wednesday 6 July 2016 07.30 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 6 July 201611.17 BST Shares 714 Comments 93 Save for later There is a moment before all our global sporting extravaganzas when it all seems poised on a knife edge. Helicopters hover above the stadium, keyed-up athletes shuffle and bounce with excess energy, and organisers bite their nails as they try to hold down nervous stomachs, worried that despite years of planning and the expenditure of billions, it will all go desperately wrong. Then the trumpets sound, thousands of young people take part in colourful charades, pop stars fight a losing battle with hopeless stadium acoustics – and the Games begin. The formula is pretty much set in stone, but in 1976 Montreal added a wrinkle. On 17 July, with Queen Elizabeth, Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau and 73,000 people looking on, the Greek athletes who traditionally led the Parade of Nations came up the ramp toward the Olympic stadium to find their way almost blocked by construction workers. Out of sight of the cameras and the throng inside the stadium, the staff were frantically wielding shovels and brooms to clear away the building debris left from the manic push to complete the facility on time. In the final scrambling months before the Games, 3,000 labourers had worked in teams 24 hours a day to make it possible for the Olympics to begin at all. They barely succeeded. Two weeks later, when the last athlete had gone home, Montreal woke up to what remains the worst hangover in Olympic history: not just a bill that came in at 13 times the original estimate, a string of officials convicted of breach of trust and the greatest white elephant of a stadium ever built, but a creeping sense of economic and social decline. Forty years on, no other Olympics has so thoroughly broken a city. Facebook Twitter Pinterest The opening ceremony of the 1976 Montreal Games. Photograph: Tony Duffy/Getty Images*** Advertisement When I arrived in Montreal five years earlier, a war resister from Nebraska with little French and less money, the city was enduring its harshest winter on record. Montreal would receive more than 152 inches of snow in 1970-71, including a March blizzard that killed 17 people. The endless snow, in a sense, was a mercy. It turned down the heat on the city’s simmering political crisis, which had boiled over the previous Octoberwhen the terrorist Front du Libération du Quebec (FLQ) kidnapped the British consul, James Cross, and the province’s minister of justice, Pierre Laporte. Prime minister Trudeau responded by imposing martial law. Armoured personnel carriers patrolled the streets and troops detained hundreds of people without charges. The FLQ would murder Laporte on 17 October. They released Cross on 3 December, effectively ending the crisis but leaving the city battered, bruised and tense. Even before the kidnappings, Montreal was jittery from a series of FLQ bombs: 95 in total, the largest of which blew out the northeast wall of the Montreal Stock Exchange. And yet, in those years, the best place to get a sense of what Montreal was and might have been was Le Bistro. It was really Chez Lou Lou, although no one called it that, and it featured more or less authentic Parisian ambience, right down to the surly French waiters. When I could afford it, Le Bistro was my favourite destination on a weekend morning. One especially frigid Saturday, Leonard Cohen sat at the next table with a blonde companion, both of them sporting deepwater tans from the Greek islands, looking blasé about it all. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Leonard Cohen was born in Westmount, Montreal. Photograph: Roz Kelly/Getty ImagesMontrealers could afford to be blasé. The city was everything that Toronto, its rival, 300 miles to the south-west, was not: urbane, sophisticated, hip, a place where you could dine well and party until the bars closed at 3am. In Toronto, they rolled up the streets at 11pm and toasted the Queen at public functions. Montreal was not just the financial capital of Canada, it was also the most European of North American cities, half English-speaking but overwhelmingly French, profoundly cultured and unfailingly elegant, where the old stone of the cathedrals met the Bauhaus steel-and-glass towers of Mies van der Rohe’s Westmount Square. The crowd at Le Bistro was a cross-section of cultural and political life in a city full of tensions, between separatism and federalism, English, French and Jewish, old money and new. There were political tensions that seemed to feed a creative ferment home that produced Cohen, the bombastic poet Irving Layton, the acerbic novelist Mordecai Richler, the politicians Pierre Trudeau and René Lévesque, the actor Geneviève Bujold and the film-maker Denys Arcand. The Olympics can no more run a deficit than a man can have a baby Jean Drapeau, in 1970 When, on 12 May 1970, during the 69th session of the International Olympic Committee held in Amsterdam, Montreal won out over competing bids from Moscow and Los Angeles to be awarded the Games of the XXI Olympiad, it seemed to signal another triumph. The city had hosted one of the most successful World’s Fairs ever in 1967, and a new baseball team, the Expos, began play in 1969, defeating the St Louis Cardinals 8-7 on 14 April at Jarry Park in the first regular season Major League game in Canada. Following those triumphs, the Olympics were sold to the Montreal public as being modest in design and, above all, inexpensive to stage. The mayor, Jean Drapeau – diminutive, autocratic, mustachioed – declared: “The Olympics can no more run a deficit than a man can have a baby.” *** Facebook Twitter Pinterest Leger (left) and Drapeau (right), listen as Taillibert describes the layout of Parc Olympique. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann ArchiveThe 1970 estimate was that the Games would cost C$120m (£65m) in total, with $71m budgeted for the Olympic Stadium itself. Drapeau took a personal hand in the stadium’s design. He and his chief engineer, Claude Phaneuf, selected the French architect Roger Taillibert, who had built the Parc des Princes in Paris and would also design the Olympic Village. Taillibert employed his own team of architects and engineers, and was respected for bringing in projects at, or at least near, budget. (The Parc des Princes, originally budgeted at $12m, cost $18m .) His conception for the “Big O” stadium was grandiose, in a style that might be called space-age fascist: it featured an enormous, inclined tower, the tallest such structure in the world, holding a retractable roof suspended from thick cables and looming over the stadium like a praying mantis over a turtle. There is no evidence, however, that either Taillibert or Drapeau ever had a handle on the management of the various construction sites. There were delays from the very beginning, and construction on the Olympic Park complex (including the Velodrome and Big O) began 18 months late, on 28 April 1973. This put Drapeau right where the powerful and militant Quebec labour unions (the Quebec Federation of Labour and the Confederation of National Trade Unions) wanted him: paying extravagant overtime bills. Out of a total of 530 potential working days between December 1974 and April 1976, the workers would be on strike for 155 days – 30% of the work time available. In one particularly crucial period of construction, from May until the end of October 1975, less than a year before the opening ceremonies were to commence, the unions walked off the job and no work was done at all. Oversight was utterly inadequate on every aspect of the project. During the inflationary 1970s, the price of structural steel alone tripled. In 1973, contractor Regis Trudeau, who had been awarded $6.9m in Olympic construction contracts, built a luxurious chalet costing $163,000 for Gerard Niding, who was Drapeau’s right-hand man and head of Montreal city council’s powerful executive committee. Only when a corruption commission forced his hand, five years later, did Trudeau finally produce a bill charging Niding for the house. Game off! Why the decline of street hockey is a crisis for our kids Read more By 1975, the provincial government had seen enough: they removed Taillibert and formed the Olympic Installations Board (pdf) (OIB) in an attempt to get a handle on the construction. Ironically, no one has since delivered a pithier assessment of the corruption than Taillibert himself. In 2011, he told le Devoir: “The construction of the Olympic Park and stadium showed me a level of organised corruption, theft, mediocrity, sabotage and indifference that I had never witnessed before and have never witnessed since. The system failed completely and every civil engineering firm involved knew they could just open this veritable cash register and serve themselves.” Drapeau himself was never charged or even suspected of personal corruption, but his remark about men having babies came back to haunt him. At the time, the physician Henry Morgentaler was much in the news for openly performing abortions. As the Olympic bill nearly tripled, to $310m, Montreal Gazette cartoonist Aislin drew one of the most famous cartoons of a brilliant career: it depicted a visibly pregnant Drapeau on the phone, saying: “‘Ello? Morgentaler?” *** When the Games finally opened, problems plagued the event itself, too. As it would do with debt, corruption and construction chaos, the Montreal Olympics inspired a trend in boycotts, when 22 African nations refused to participatebecause the IOC would not ban New Zealand for sending the All Blacks rugby team to tour apartheid South Africa. It caught on: western nations boycotted Moscow in 1980 over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and communist nations retaliated in Los Angeles in 1984. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Photograph: Design Pics Inc/Alamy Stock PhotoMontreal also broke the mould in security. Following the terrorist tragedy at Munich four years earlier, the security bill ended up running to another $100m (more than 80% of what the entire event was initially supposed to cost), not including the cost of the Canadian forces enlisted to help keep order. Meanwhile, some of the athletes were tainted by accusations of doping, including legendary Finnish postman and distance runner Lasse Virén, who was suspected of transfusing his own blood – a practice that was legal at the time, though Viren has always denied it. Far more serious was the treatment of East German athletes, who dominated their events in part because, the world later learned, they’d been fed performance-enhancing drugs for decades, sometimes without their knowledge, under a programme known as State Plan 14.25. Many later suffered psychological problems and had children with birth defects. The struggle in Iqaluit: north and south collide in Canada's Arctic capital Read more In the end, the athletes themselves redeemed at least some portion of the Olympic expense: the Games themselves went off relatively well. If the relentlessly self-promoting American decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner caused a few eyeballs to roll, he was overshadowed by the refrigerator-built Soviet weightlifter Vasily Alekseyev, who repeated his heavyweight gold from Munich and set an Olympic record in the snatch while lifting 440kg. And in the first full day of competition, the 14-year-old diminutive Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci earned a perfect 10 on the uneven bars – she went on to become the 1976 Olympics’ unquestioned individual star. Canada, meanwhile, became the first host nation to fail to win a gold medal on home soil, a feat made no less exceptional for being repeated at the Calgary Winter Olympics 12 years later. The glow began to fade with the closing ceremonies on 1 August. The final tally of the cost for the Olympics was $1.6bn, a more than 13-fold increase, including at least $1.1bn for the stadium alone. In popular lore, the Big O had officially become the Big Owe. When all was said and done, the city was left with debt that took 30 years to pay off. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Nadia Comăneci, of Romania, dismounts during a perfect 10 performance. Photograph: Paul Vathis/AP*** On 15 November 1976, running on a platform of good government in the wake of the scandals and cost overruns, René Lévesque’s separatist Parti Québecois (PQ) won its first provincial election. The PQ’s promise to hold a referendum on leaving Canada touched off a full-scale anglophone panic in bilingual Montreal, especially within the business community. Sun Life, the huge insurance company, was the first of a stream of Montreal-based corporations to move down Highway 401 to Toronto. When the referendum was eventually held in 1980, Lévesque and the “yes” side lost decisively, but by the end of the 1980s Canada’s financial capital had shifted firmly from St Jacques Street to Bay Street, Toronto. Between 1971 and 1981, the English-speaking population of Montreal declined by nearly 100,000; over the next 20 years – which included another referendum in 1995, that only kept Quebec in Canada by a narrow margin of 50.6% to 49.4% – it would shrink by another 100,000. It would take 30 years for the city of Montreal to retire the Olympic debt Like some medieval castle under a warlock’s curse, the Olympic stadium – visible from dozens of different vantage points in the city, an inescapable reminder of what went wrong – continued to be plagued with problems. In the 1980s, the tower caught fire. In August of 1986, a chunk of it fell on to the baseball field, forcing the Expos to postpone a game. In September of 1991, a bigger 55-tonne concrete slab fell on to an empty walkway. The OIB reassured the public no one was underneath it, prompting one columnist to ask: “How do they know?” The retractable roof never happened; instead, an orange Kevlar roof was finally installed in April of 1987. It tore repeatedly, until it was replaced in 1998 by a fixed roof, which cost another $37m. In the winter of the next year, that roof tore under a heavy snow load, sending a small avalanche of ice cascading on to workers preparing for a motor show. To this day, in a northern Canadian city that averages roughly 50cm of snow a month in winter, the Olympic Stadium cannot be used if the snow load exceeds 3cm. The OIB claims the only thing more expensive than a permanent steel roof (estimated cost: $200m-$300m) would be to tear the whole thing down (estimated cost: $1bn). Their figure has been widely debunked. The roof remains in place, and the Big O now lacks a full-time tenant: the Expos played their last game in 2004 and the franchise moved to Washington DC. Facebook Twitter Pinterest The 200,000 sq ft, 65-tonne Kevlar roof at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal was expected to last 25 years. Photograph: Shaun Best/ReutersThe stadium aside, Montreal did get some bang for its Olympic buck. The excellent Claude Robillard Sports Centre in the city’s north end is still used by thousands of athletes, and the one-time Velodrome has been converted to the Biodome, an enormously popular indoor nature museum. The claim has also been made that the Montreal Olympics proper turned a profit, which is true only if you chalk up the various purpose-built venues, the stadium in particular, to infrastructure. In any case, it would take 30 years for the city of Montreal to retire the Olympic debt. A commission headed by superior court judge Albert Malouf to probe Olympic corruption spent three years, and another $3m, before releasing a 908-page report in 1980 that laid blame squarely at the feet of the mayor. Taillibert, Phaneuf and others shared some of the responsibility, in Malouf’s view, but Drapeau was the principal culprit, with his hands-on style and his habit of turning a blind eye to the shenanigans around him. Top officials and contractors were convicted of fraud and corruption. They included Niding, Drapeau’s right-hand man, who was convicted of breach of trust and sentenced to one day in jail and a $75,000 fine, and contractor Regis Trudeau, who also received a one-day jail sentence and a $100,000 fine. Even Claude Rouleau, head of the OIB installed to stop the bleeding, was found guilty of breach of trust for accepting gifts in connection with the Olympic construction and was ordered to pay $31,000. Fining the miscreants, unfortunately, didn’t help pay off much of the debt. In order to rid itself of the Olympic burden city hall had to skimp on urban essentials for years. Even now, with a belated rush to repair its crumbling infrastructure,Montreal is still paying the price for decades of neglect. *** Forty years on, however, Montreal has endured. The sour jokes about the stadium, the corruption and the Olympic debt are now part of the culture. The separatist movement that convulsed the city in the immediate aftermath of the debacle also brought some much-needed social change. Welcome to the new Toronto: the most fascinatingly boring city in the world Read more Montreal survived by reinventing itself on a smaller, more viable scale. If Toronto seized the mantle of Canada’s financial capital, Montreal is the unquestioned capital of culture, a vibrant city of street art, sculpture and world-class jazz, fireworks, comedy and fringe festivals, the city no longer just of Leonard Cohen but of Arcade Fire and Cirque du Soleil. Le Bistro is long gone, but Montreal is still hip, the bars and restaurants and clubs the liveliest in the country, a walking city where the cafes are full all day long and joie de vivretrumps quotidian worries over such inconvenient details as bounced rent cheques and unpaid parking tickets. Montreal remains the polar opposite of money and real-estate obsessed Toronto – though where it was once a smaller, colder Paris, Montreal is now more North American, less European, less blithely certain of its position in the universe. Nevertheless, the Olympic debt is paid, separatism is a diminished force and there is even a tentative plan afoot to bring back the Expos. When spring finally comes after the long winters, there is a buoyant sense of rebirth and confidence in the future. If you can ignore the potholes and the still-simmering controversies over municipal corruption, Montreal is once again a great place to live. But you can’t escape the sense that the city might have had it all. In truth, before the Olympics, it did. Guardian Cities is devoting a week to exploring all things Canada. Get involved onTwitter and Facebook and share your thoughts with #GuardianCanada
  4. Federal cash could put CFL team in Quebec City RHEAL SEGUIN Globe and Mail Update September 3, 2008 at 3:31 PM EDT The federal government will announce today a multimillion dollar infrastructure program for Quebec that could pave the way for a Canadian Football league franchise in Quebec City. The federal funding includes the expansion and renovation of Quebec City's Laval University sports centre where local investors are offering to expand the football stadium in their bid for a CFL franchise. According to prominent Quebec City lawyer Marc Bellemare, local investors have already set aside half of the $40-million needed to expand the stadium with the other half expected to come from other potential investors once the project is approved. However the head of Laval University Denis Brière has been reluctant in giving his full support to the stadium's expansion for a CFL franchise. “It would be irresponsible to say no to the expansion of the football stadium.,” Mr. Bellemare said on behalf of the anonymous investors in an interview on Tuesday. “The investors need to settle the situation involving the stadium. And then we can move and show the rest of Canada that Quebec City is truly a city capable of attracting a CFL franchise.” According to a marketing conducted on behalf of the investors the marketing firm Impact Recherche, 71 per cent of Quebec City residents support a CFL franchise. The study obtained by the Globe and Mail showed that 43-per cent of the 1001 people polled would be interested in purchasing a season ticket and that 85-per cent believed that Laval University sports centre would be an appropriate location to hold CFL games. The investors worked closely with the Montreal Alouettes in preparing their project for a CFL franchise. Alouette's president Larry Smitth said in a recent local radio interview he embraced Quebec City as a potential CFL franchise location saying it would create a healthy rivalry between the two city that would boost interest for the league throughout Quebec. According to Mr. Bellemare, CFL director general Michael Copeland also indicated to him that Quebec City would be an ideal location for the league's proposed expansion project. Quebec City has one of the most popular university football teams where the Laval University Rouge et Or has attracted as many as 19,000 people to local games in a stadium that only has slightly more than 10,000 seats. The marketing study showed that the attraction of CFL franchise in the city would not have a negative impact on the popularity of local university foot ball games. “The university hold four local games per season. Most of the CFL local games could be scheduled in July and August and would no compete with the university games,” Mr. Bellemare said. “Now it's up to the government to urge the university to change their plans for a new sports centre to allow for the stadium's expansion. Laval University's current $85-million sports centre proposal includes the construction of an indoor soccer field on empty land next to the current football stadium. The city has announced it will inject $10-million in the project with the other $75-million coming from equal contributions from Ottawa and the province. The investors have proposed that the university modify the plan in order to move the soccer stadium further east and use the empty field for the expansion of the football field. Today federal Minister of Transport, Infrastruture and Communities Lawrence cannon will confirm Ottawa's contribution to the university's sport centre proposal. Mr. Cannon as well as Quebec Finance Minister Monique Jérôme-Forget are expected to respond to investors' proposal for changes to the University's plan that could pave the way for a CFL franchise in the city.
  5. Montreal Croupiers Take Electronic Poker Table Battle to Court by PokerPages.com Mon, Jan 28th, 2008 @ 12:00am Three unions representing 1,450 croupiers at Quebec area casinos lodged a request with Quebec Superior Court to force the board that regulates gambling in the province, the Regie des alcools des courses et des jeux, to address complaints that the 25 automated electronic Texas Hold'em poker tables installed Jan. 18 at the Montreal Casino are illegal. The croupiers, who have been without a contract since Dec. 21, 2006, are in ongoing discussions with the Societe des casinos du Quebec. The croupiers say the tables are illegal and charmless. The PokerPro tables, made by PokerTek, a North Carolina USA-based company, do not meet Quebec's legal requirement that slot machines be pure games of chance, said Jean-Pierre Proulx, a spokesperson for the croupiers union, affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour. Proulx maintains that poker has a large element of strategy as well as chance, so should not be treated the same as a slot machine. The union has been waiting for a ruling from the Regie on the legality of the machines. 43 Electronic Tables Already Installed Besides the 25 automated poker tables installed at the Montreal, 13 have been installed at Lac Leamy in Gatineau and 5 in Charlevoix. According to Vito Casucci, a spokesman for Pokertek, the machines can deal 50 per cent faster than human dealers, allowing customers to spend their money faster. The union is concerned that casino staff may consequently lose their jobs and that the new poker rooms represent a trend toward more electronic games. According to a union spokesperson, the Regie has steadfastly refused to meet with them or confirm that a complaint against the introduction of the dealer-free machines has been lodged. The union filed a complaint with Quebec's alcohol and gaming regulator Dec. 7, arguing that the absence of a human dealer makes the tables illegal under Quebec law. "We are asking the court to make a ruling that the Regie has to meet with us," union spokesperson Jean-Pierre Proulx said. "They have not responded to our demands, they put our lawyer on hold and said they have no file of our complaint. Technically, the Regie is not doing their job." He said the croupiers' unions, affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour and representing workers from Montreal, Gatineau and Charlevoix, complained to the Regie twice in December and twice this month. Regie spokesperson Rejean Theriault said receipt of the complaints was acknowledged but the situation could not be analyzed until the machines were opened Jan. 18. "It's like investigating a murder when there's no body," Theriault said. http://www.pokerpages.com/poker-news/news/montreal-croupiers-take-electronic-poker-table-battle-to-court--30339.htm
  6. I would buy the best seats I possibly could for sure!! Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/baseball/story/2011/04/06/sp-beeston-bluejays-montreal.html#ixzz1Inasrob6
  7. Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/sports/story.html?id=2505913#ixzz0eElkka0z This doesn't bode well for the Habs!!!
  8. China's Olympic Nightmare What the Games Mean for Beijing's Future Elizabeth C. Economy and Adam Segal From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2008 ELIZABETH C. ECONOMY is C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. ADAM SEGAL is Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Of Related Interest On the night of July 13, 2001, tens of thousands of people poured into Tiananmen Square to celebrate the International Olympic Committee's decision to award the 2008 Olympic Games to Beijing. Firecrackers exploded, flags flew high, and cars honked wildly. It was a moment to be savored. Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other leaders exhorted the crowds to work together to prepare for the Olympics. "Winning the host rights means winning the respect, trust, and favor of the international community," Wang Wei, a senior Beijing Olympic official, proclaimed. The official Xinhua News Agency reveled in the moment, calling the decision "another milestone in China's rising international status and a historical event in the great renaissance of the Chinese nation." Hosting the Olympics was supposed to be a chance for China's leaders to showcase the country's rapid economic growth and modernization to the rest of the world. Domestically, it provided an opportunity for the Chinese government to demonstrate the Communist Party's competence and affirm the country's status as a major power on equal footing with the West. And wrapping itself in the values of the Olympic movement gave China the chance to portray itself not only as a rising power but also as a "peace-loving" country. For much of the lead-up to the Olympics, Beijing succeeded in promoting just such a message. The process of preparing for the Games is tailor-made to display China's greatest political and economic strengths: the top-down mobilization of resources, the development and execution of grand-scale campaigns to reform public behavior, and the ability to attract foreign interest and investment to one of the world's brightest new centers of culture and business. Mobilizing massive resources for large infrastructure projects comes easily to China. Throughout history, China's leaders have drawn on the ingenuity of China's massive population to realize some of the world's most spectacular construction projects, the Great Wall, the Grand Canal, and the Three Gorges Dam among them. The Olympic construction spree has been no different. Beijing has built 19 new venues for the events, doubled the capacity of the subway, and added a new terminal to the airport. Neighborhoods throughout the city have been either spruced up to prepare for Olympic visitors or simply cleared out to make room for new Olympic sites. Official government spending for the construction bonanza is nearing $40 billion. In anticipation of the Olympics, the government has also embarked on a series of efforts to transform individual behavior and modernize the capital city. It has launched etiquette campaigns forbidding spitting, smoking, littering, and cutting in lines and introduced programs to teach English to cab drivers, police officers, hotel workers, and waiters. City officials have used Olympic projects as a means to refurbish decaying buildings and reduce air pollution, water shortages, and traffic jams. Yet even as Beijing has worked tirelessly to ensure the most impressive of Olympic spectacles, it is clear that the Games have come to highlight not only the awesome achievements of the country but also the grave shortcomings of the current regime. Few in the central leadership seem to have anticipated the extent to which the Olympic Games would stoke the persistent political challenges to the legitimacy of the Communist Party and the stability of the country. Demands for political liberalization, greater autonomy for Tibet, increased pressure on Sudan, better environmental protection, and an improved product-safety record now threaten to put a damper on the country's coming-out party. As the Olympic torch circled the globe with legions of protesters in tow, Beijing's Olympic dream quickly turned into a public-relations nightmare. Although the Chinese government excels when it comes to infrastructure projects, its record is poor when it comes to transparency, official accountability, and the rule of law. It has responded clumsily to internal and external political challenges -- by initially ignoring the international community's desire for China to play a more active role in resolving the human rights crisis in Darfur, arresting prominent Chinese political activists, and cracking down violently on demonstrators. Although there is no organized opposition unified around this set of demands, the cacophony of voices pressuring China to change its policies has taken much of the luster off of the Beijing Games. Moreover, although the Communist Party has gained domestic support from the nationalist backlash that has arisen in response to the Tibetan protesters and their supporters in the West, it also worries that this public anger will spin out of control, further damaging the country's international reputation. Already, China's coveted image as a responsible rising power has been tarnished. For many in the international community, it has now become impossible to separate the competing narratives of China's awe-inspiring development and its poor record on human rights and the environment. It is no longer possible to discuss China's future without taking its internal fault lines seriously. For the Chinese government, the stakes are huge. China's credibility as a global leader, its potential as a model for the developing world, and its position as an emerging center of global business and culture are all at risk if these political challenges cannot be peacefully and successfully addressed. TIANANMEN'S GHOSTS Nothing has threatened to ruin China's Olympic moment as much as criticism of the country's repressive political system. China lost its bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics to Sydney, Australia, at least in part because of the memory of the violent Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 1989. When China made its bid for the 2008 Games, Liu Jingmin, vice president of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee, argued, "By allowing Beijing to host the Games, you will help the development of human rights." François Carrard, director general of the International Olympic Committee, warily supported such a sentiment: acknowledging the seriousness of China's human rights violations, he nonetheless explained, "We are taking the bet that seven years from now ... we shall see many changes." Few would place such a bet today. For months, human rights activists, democracy advocates, and ethnic minorities in China have been pressuring the government to demonstrate its commitment to greater political freedom. For many of them, the Olympics highlight the yawning gap between the very attractive face that Beijing presents to the world and the much uglier political reality at home. Exactly one year before the Olympics, a group of 40 prominent Chinese democracy supporters posted an open letter online denouncing the Olympic glitz and glamour. "We know too well how these glories are built on the ruins of the lives of ordinary people, on the forced removal of urban migrants, and on the sufferings of victims of brutal land grabbing, forced eviction, exploitation of labor, and arbitrary detention," they wrote. "All this violates the Olympic spirit." Even Ai Weiwei, an artistic consultant for Beijing's signature "Bird's Nest" stadium, has been critical of the Chinese government. He declared in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, "The government wants to use these games to celebrate itself and its policy of opening up China .... By now, it has become clear to me that this hope of liberalization cannot be fulfilled .... The system won't allow it." Protests have arisen around virtually every Olympic Games in recent history, but Beijing, with its authoritarian political system, is uniquely threatened by dissenting voices, and it has responded with a traditional mix of intimidation, imprisonment, and violent repression. Teng Biao, a lawyer and human rights activist, was seized in March 2008, held by plainclothes police for two days, and warned to stop writing critically about the Olympics. Yang Chunlin, a land-rights activist, was arrested for inciting subversion because he had gathered more than 10,000 signatures from farmers whose property had been expropriated by officials for development projects. After a 20-minute trial, he was sentenced to five years in prison. In April, the HIV/AIDS activist Hu Jia, who was also one of the authors of the open letter, was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for subversion, after being held under house arrest for several months along with his wife and baby daughter. Although the vast majority of Chinese are probably unaware of these protests and arrests, Beijing's overreaction demonstrates how fearful the Chinese government is that any dissent or protests could garner broader political support and threaten the party's authority. CRASHING THE PARTY The international community has also raised its own human rights concerns. For more than a year, China has endured heightened scrutiny of its close economic and political ties to Sudan. A coalition of U.S. celebrities and international human rights activists has ratcheted up the pressure on Beijing to do more to help bring an end to the atrocities in Darfur, labeling the 2008 Olympics "the genocide Olympics." The very public attention they have brought to China's relations with the Sudanese government prompted the movie director Steven Spielberg to withdraw as the artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Games. It also seems to have had some effect on Beijing, which now strives to appear as if it is placing more pressure on Khartoum. The Chinese government's questionable human rights record has received even more scrutiny since its violent suppression of Tibetan demonstrators in the spring. In March, Tibetan Buddhist monks marched to commemorate the 49th anniversary of Tibet's failed independence uprising and to call for greater autonomy for Tibet and the return of their exiled religious leader, the Dalai Lama. The demonstrations soon escalated into violent protests. Chinese police forcefully cracked down on the protesters in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and throughout other Tibetan areas of western China, leaving more than a hundred dead and injuring hundreds more. Ignoring international calls for restraint, Beijing closed off much of the affected region, detained or expelled foreign journalists from the area, and created a "most wanted" list of Tibetan protesters. All independent sources of news, including broadcasts by foreign television stations and YouTube videos, were blacked out in China, and text messages in and out of Tibet were filtered. Vitriolic government propaganda condemned the Dalai Lama as a "wolf in monk's robes" and a "devil with a human face but the heart of a beast." Chinese officials accused the "evil Dalai clique" of attempting to restore "feudalist serfdom" in the region and called for a "people's war" against it. The international community immediately condemned the crackdown and called for Beijing to resume negotiations with representatives of the Dalai Lama. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Czech President Václav Klaus, and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk have since announced that they will not be attending the Olympics' opening ceremonies. As the Olympic torch made its way across the globe, the number of protesters along its path ballooned, from a few in Athens to thousands in London, Paris, San Francisco, and Seoul. These large-scale disruptions of Olympic pageantry humiliated the Chinese government and angered Chinese citizens, producing a wave of nationalist counterdemonstrations by Chinese living abroad and millions of virulent anti-Western posts on Chinese Web sites. A bit more than a month after Beijing's initial crackdown, senior Chinese leaders indicated a willingness to meet with the Dalai Lama's envoys. But this does not represent a fundamental shift in policy; it is merely a stopgap measure designed to quell the international outrage. WAITING TO INHALE Although some foreign athletes have joined the chorus of China's critics, the more immediate concern for many Olympians will be whether Beijing can ensure clean air and safe food for the duration of the Games. The city has reportedly spent as much as $16 billion to deliver a "green Olympics"; many of the Olympic sites showcase a number of clean-energy and water-conservation technologies, and for the past seven years the city has been shutting down many of the biggest polluters and steadily weaning the city's energy infrastructure off coal, replacing it with natural gas. On February 26, senior Chinese officials formally announced a more sweeping effort, including restrictions on heavy industry in five neighboring provinces surrounding Beijing, a ban on construction in the months immediately preceding the Olympics, and plans to compensate car owners for staying off the road during the Games. But pollution levels in Beijing are still far above average. On a typical day, the city's air pollution is three times as bad as the standard deemed safe by the World Health Organization. Last August, an air-quality test revealed that pollution levels in the city had barely improved despite one-third of the cars having been removed from the city's roads. Even some senior Chinese officials have reservations about the prospects for a green Olympics. The mayor of Beijing, Guo Jinlong, admitted in early 2008 that bringing traffic and environmental pollution under control by the time the Games begin would be an "arduous" task. After all, there are few economic incentives for businesses to reduce pollution; the central government routinely calls on local officials and businesses to clean up their act to no effect. Many factory managers have agreed to slow production during the Olympics but not to shut down. In the brutally competitive Chinese economy, closing factories for several weeks could well spell the end of those enterprises unless the government provides significant financial compensation. Meanwhile, corruption flourishes, and local officials openly flout environmental laws and regulations. In January 2008, it was revealed by a Western environmental consultant, Steven Andrews, that officials in Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau had for several years been skewing the city's air-quality data by eliminating readings from some monitoring stations in heavily congested areas. Faced with the prospect of dangerously high levels of air pollution during the Games, International Olympic Committee officials have warned that competition in endurance sports, such as the marathon and long-distance cycling, might be postponed or even canceled. The world's fastest marathon runner, Haile Gebrselassie, has already withdrawn from the Olympic race for fear that air pollution might permanently damage his health. Many athletes are planning to take precautions, such as arriving in Beijing as late as possible, coming well equipped with medication for possible asthma attacks, and wearing masks once there. Beijing's capacity to provide safe food and clean water for the athletes is also in question. In the past year, China has endured a rash of scandals involving food tainted with steroids and insecticides, and as much as half of the bottled water in Beijing does not meet potable-water standards. Some teams, such as the United States' and Australia's, have announced that they will be bringing some or all of their own food and that their bottled water will be supplied by Coca-Cola. Olympic officials have put in place a massive food-security apparatus that will track the athletes' food from the producers and distributors to the Olympic Village. Having promised a safe and green Olympics, Beijing must now deliver. Otherwise, it risks irrevocably damaging the historic legacy of the 2008 Games. BEIJING'S BLIND SPOT Beijing's failure to respond creatively to its critics and effectively manage its environmental and product-safety issues reveals a certain political myopia. China's leaders have long been aware that opponents of the regime would try to disrupt the Olympics. They prepared extensively for disturbances by developing a citywide network of surveillance cameras and training, outfitting, and deploying riot squads and other special police. They also made some attempts to defuse international hostility, such as offering to renew the human rights dialogue with Washington that was suspended in 2004 and publicly pressuring Khartoum to accept a joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force. But Beijing has been unable to counter the images emanating from Darfur and Tibet. Chinese leaders simply saw no relationship between the pageantry of the Olympics and Tibet, Sudan, or broader human rights concerns, and they never figured out how to engage and disarm those who did. They continue to fail in this regard. As a result, tensions will run high until the end of the Games. There are also real worries that with the spotlight focused on Beijing during the Games, some of the opposition to the regime could take an extreme form. For example, Chinese security forces have expressed concern that activists from the religious movement Falun Gong might attempt to immolate themselves in Tiananmen Square. Because of such concerns, the 30,000 journalists covering the Games may find themselves straitjacketed when reporting on controversial stories. And despite recent assurances that a live feed from Beijing will be allowed and that the Internet will be uncensored in China, the government has yet to fulfill its promise to allow foreign journalists unfettered access throughout the country. The Chinese public is already angry about what it sees as a pervasive bias toward Tibet and disrespect of China in the Western media. Chinese citizens are likely to view any disturbances of the Games as an effort to embarrass the country and undermine China's rise. Foreign media, corporations, and governments might all bear the brunt of the sort of nationalist backlash that the French retailer Carrefour endured -- in the form of a consumer boycott -- in the wake of the disrupted torch ceremony in Paris. The combination of demonstrators desperate for the world's attention and the heightened nationalism of Chinese citizens makes for an extremely combustible situation. The official Beijing Olympic motto of "One World, One Dream" suggests an easy cosmopolitanism, but Chinese nationalist sentiment will be running high during the Games, stoked by the heat of competition. In the past, sporting events in China, in particular soccer matches against Japanese teams, have led to ugly riots, and the same could happen during the Olympics. If the Games do not go well, there will be infighting and blame shifting within the party's central leadership, and it will likely adopt a bunker mentality. Vice President Xi Jinping, the government's point man on the Olympics and President Hu Jintao's heir apparent, would likely face challenges to his presumed leadership. A poor outcome for the Games could engender another round of nationalist outbursts and Chinese citizens decrying what they see as racism, anti-Chinese bias, and a misguided sense of Western superiority. This inflamed form of Chinese nationalism could be the most enduring and dangerous outcome of the protests surrounding the Olympics. If the international community does not welcome China's rise, the Chinese people may ask themselves why China should be bound by its rules. As a result, Beijing may find the room it has for foreign policy maneuvering more restricted by public opinion. This form of heightened nationalism has occasionally hurt the Chinese government, as happened after a U.S. spy plane was shot down over China in 2001. When the crew was eventually released, an outraged Chinese public accused the government of weakness and kowtowing to the West. More recently, despite a decade of increasingly close economic, political, and cultural ties between Beijing and Seoul, South Koreans were outraged by the Chinese counterprotests during the Olympic torch ceremony; in response, the South Korean government imposed tight restrictions on the number of Chinese students permitted to study in the country. Sensing the potentially damaging consequences of a prolonged nationalist backlash, the official Chinese media began signaling in May that it was time for people to move on, focus on economic development, and steer clear of staging counterprotests and boycotting Western companies. The barrage of criticism China has endured prior to the Olympics may have brought a short-term gain in forcing the Chinese leadership to agree to meet with the Dalai Lama's envoys, but real reform of China's Tibet policy or a broader willingness to embrace domestic reforms is unlikely to follow in the near term. Nevertheless, the current controversy could yield positive results in the long run. Beijing's Olympic trials and tribulations could provoke soul searching among China's leaders and demonstrate to them that their hold on domestic stability and the country's continued rise depend on greater transparency and accountability and a broader commitment to human rights. Already, some Chinese bloggers, intellectuals, and journalists, such as Wang Lixiong and Chang Ping, have seized the moment to call for less nationalist rhetoric and more thoughtful engagement of outside criticism. The nationalist outburst has provided them with an opening to ask publicly how Chinese citizens can legitimately attack Western media organizations if their own government does not allow them to watch media outlets such as CNN and the BBC. Similarly, they have used the Olympics as a springboard to discuss the significance of Taiwan's thriving democracy for the mainland's own political future, the need for rethinking China's approach to Tibet, and the desirability of an open press. Whatever the longer-term implications of the 2008 Olympics, what has transpired thus far bears little resemblance to Beijing's dreams of Olympic glory. Rather than basking in the admiration of the world, China is beset by internal protests and international condemnation. The world is increasingly doubtful that Beijing will reform politically and become a responsible global actor. The Olympics were supposed to put these questions to bed, not raise them all anew. http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080701faessay87403-p0/elizabeth-c-economy-adam-segal/china-s-olympic-nightmare.html
  9. Charest will help push for more French at Olympics KEVIN DOUGHERTY, The Gazette Published: 7 hours ago Premier Jean Charest will be in Beijing on Aug. 9, the day after the official opening of the Olympics, at a rally of heads of government and ministers from the 55-member Franco-phonie, lending support to the use of French at the Olympics. Amadou Diouf, secretary-general of the Francophonie, and Jacques Rogge, Belgian doctor and president of the International Olympic Committee, will co-chair the event. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will also attend the opening ceremonies, will be at the rally, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not. Clément Duhaime, who seconds Diouf as administrator of the Francophonie, told reporters yesterday that while French and English are the two official languages of the Olympics, in recent Games, the position of French has not always been respected. This time, in addition to the rally of Francophone leaders, the Francophonie has an agreement with the organizing committee for the Beijing Games to ensure French is used in announcements. The agreement also calls for translation of Olympic documents and the hiring of 40 translators and French-language journalists, as well as training for "several hundred" Chinese volunteers as guides at French cultural shows during the Games. "This is the first time we have gone so far," said Duhaime, a former Montrealer who was previously Quebec's representative in Paris. [email protected]
  10. Québec et Montréal songent à déposer leur candidature Le Québec pourrait vivre à l'heure des X Games. Le réseau ESPN qui a créé l'évènement de sports extrèmes a annoncé jeudi que Montréal et Québec envisageaient poser officiellement leur candidature après avoir franchi une première étape du processus de sélection. Les deux villes québécoises ne sont pas pour autant concurrentes, car Montréal est candidate pour les X Games d'été (entre 2014 et 2016), alors que Québec vise les X Games d'hiver (entre 2015 et 2017). Ce sont obligatoirement des mandats de trois ans. Elles ne sont pas les seules à avoir envie de recevoir les meilleurs athlètes de la planète. En effet, 15 autres villes nord-américaines ont passé avec succès la première étape leur permettant d'envoyer un dossier de candidature. Il s'agit d'Aspen (hiver), Atlanta (été), Austin (été), Charlotte (été), Chicago (été), Détroit (été), Fort Worth (été), Houston (été), Lake Tahoe (hiver), Long Beach (été), Minneapolis (été), La Nouvelle-Orléans (été), Park City (hiver), Pasadena (été) et Philadelphie (été). Les 17 villes candidates ont jusqu'au 2 avril pour envoyer leur dossier de candidature. http://www.radio-canada.ca/sports/PlusSports/2013/01/17/001-xgames-candidates-quebecmontreal.shtml
  11. Revisiting Drapeau's personal Versaille Alan Richman, National Post Published: Friday, January 25, 2008 Story Tools Gordon Beck/Canwest News Service The Olympic Stadium adds grandeur to a part of Montreal that is woefully lacking in it, even if it is too large and impractical for just about every sport, including baseball, the sport played there ... Having once worked simultaneously as both the sports columnist and the restaurant critic for the long-defunct Montreal Star - employing a sportswriter as a restaurant critic might well have contributed to its demise - I am used to my commentary being greeted with derision from numerous walks of life. Nothing I said then might equal the mockery I anticipate from what I am about to say now. I take a deep breath. I ask: Is it possible that the Montreal Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 Games, is an enduring work of art? I have always loathed the stadium, but not for esthetic reasons. I have hated it for far longer than is healthy for a man to despise an inanimate object, entirely because of what the stadium represented: Greed. Extravagance. Envy. Pride. That's more than half the original seven deadly sins. I don't include gluttony, simply because I recall the smoked meat sold during athletic events as being ordinary. I disliked the stadium because of the considerable pain and suffering it caused the city and the province. It infamously cost about $1-billion, and we're talking 1970s dollars. It was wrong for the climate, forever showing water stains, like a suede jacket worn in the rain. It is no longer utilized in winter, because engineers worry it might not be able to withstand the weight of a significant snowfall. It's too large for just about any legitimate sports event except the opening and closing ceremonies of an Olympic Games. The one sport that was played there most often, professional baseball, didn't fit. Famously, the retractable roof never worked properly. The space was finally covered with some kind of hideous fabric. It reminds me of a tarp thrown over a sports car parked out of doors. I have one fond memory of covering an event there. I was standing in line for free food in the press room during the 1976 Olympics. Mick Jagger was in front of me, wearing a lime-green suit with a cigarette burn in the shoulder, looking like a guy who needed free food. A few days later he would send a note down to the field during the women's pentathlon, trying to meet Diane Jones, a member of the Canadian team. I left Montreal in 1977, a year after the Olympics had nearly bankrupted the province of Quebec, so the problems that kept popping up were no longer of concern to me. I stopped covering events, except as an occasional visiting sportswriter. I no longer paid income taxes to the province, so I stopped feeling cheated by the cost overruns. My bad attitude lingered on, though. In 1975 and '76, when I was the sports columnist for the Star, I had written often and angrily about the abuses that were permitted - I should say promulgated - by the city government. I recall being consumed with outrage when two workers died in an accident on the job, and Mayor Jean Drapeau justified the deaths by pointing out that in construction-deaths-per-dollar-spent, the stadium lagged behind virtually every other major project. From then on, I was in a rage. I couldn't really decide whether the mayor or the stadium was the more irrational piece of work. I shouldn't have blamed the government for everything. Let's not forget the unionized workers who built the place. Knowing of the alarmingly tight deadline, they responded with strikes, walkouts and protests. When those led to a crisis, they demanded more money for having to work so hard. The stadium was so impractical, so ridiculous and so wrong-headed that I never considered the possibility that it might be beautiful. Drapeau had it built by French architect Roger Taillibert, calling his works "poems in concrete." To me, the stadium was blank verse. Drapeau was no longer at the peak of his powers when he commissioned it. He was out of touch with practicality. But he was also something of a visionary, successor to the French profligates who built the great tourist attractions of France. The Olympic Stadium was his Versailles. A few months ago, on a visit to Montreal, I was driving through the eastern part of the city in search of a trendy restaurant: Nothing trendy ever happened in the eastern part of Montreal when I lived there. I drove past the stadium. It was sunset, and it seemed to glow. I was caught up in the gracefulness of its sweeping, melodious lines. I thought it was stunning, capable of taking flight. Others have called it a toilet bowl. Writer Josh Freed once said, "It killed the Olympics. It killed baseball and city finances. Please, let's take it down before it kills again." My old pal Mike Boone, who worked with me on the Montreal Star and is now city columnist for the Montreal Gazette, recently reminded me that baseball players never liked it, either. He recalls Ross Grimsley, a pitcher who once won 20 games for the Montreal Expos, telling him, "I was looking for the locker room. I walked a hundred miles, down corridors that didn't lead anywhere." Boone calls the stadium "a bidet with a dildo attached to it." I now think of it as Starship Drapeau. I risk being thought as addled as Drapeau when I say this: shortsighted, all of them. To be fair, even Boone concedes that if you drive up to the eastern lookout on Mount Royal, park your car and look east when the stadium is lit up, it does look lovely at a distance. I don't know if this entered into Drapeau's thoughts, but that part of Montreal is woefully lacking in grandeur, and the stadium provides what little there is. Drapeau believed that great cities needed spectacular monuments. He had wanted a symbolic structure built for his enormously successful Expo 67, but never got the building because it would have cost too much: $22-million. That's about a 50th of what the Olympic Stadium finally cost. Had he been successful in the '60s, the Montreal Olympics might not have been such a fiscal tragedy in the '70s. Of course, the stadium has been a disaster. It remains one. In 1991, a 55-ton concrete beam fell, not killing anybody, an unexpected break. In 1997, the province spent about $40-million for a new roof that was supposed to last 50 years. It soon ripped. Canadians should start thinking of the stadium as a great old pile. Sure it's obsolete, drafty and ruinous. So are castles in France. But if it hadn't been so terrible, it wouldn't be nearly so fascinating. http://www.nationalpost.com/life/story.html?id=264191
  12. Video games: the next generation By Marc Cieslak Reporter, BBC Click The video games industry is obsessed with the phrase "next generation", but what does it actually mean? What can gamers expect from any game given that name? It would be easy to dismiss the next generation gaming experience as simply eye candy. Every single thing in the city can be grabbed, climbed on, jumped from Jade Raymond, Ubisoft producer The latest games all look great but the potential offered by the processing power of consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3 does not end there. They also give developers a wealth of new gameplay possibilities. At Ubisoft's Montreal studio, a team of 300 designers, programmers and artists have spent four years developing Assassin's Creed, a next generation medieval action adventure. "A lot of people have heard the term 'next gen game' thrown around and so far what we've seen as far as next gen games mostly means better quality graphics," said Ubisoft producer Jade Raymond. "So you've seen in fighting games where boxers are up close, you get more detail on the facial animation. Or in car racing games it looks exactly like the car, and you get more shiny cars and the environments are more realistic. "But for me personally, next gen game had to mean new types of gameplay." Assassin's Creed is set during the Crusades and the action takes place in three huge cities. Each is populated with thousands of computer controlled characters. Players can take Altair, the character they control, anywhere in the city. "We made this rule and gave ourselves the challenge to try and make huge cities that are completely interactive, which means that every single thing in the city can be grabbed, climbed on, jumped from," said Ms Raymond. "Which means that we created tools to be able to recognise the 3D models and automatically generate interactive edges on everything." Lego blocks The gaming environment took so long to develop because everything that sticks out of a wall more than two inches can be an anchor point for Altair. Bumping into people affects the direction of the main character "Our challenge was to make it readable for the player as we're using games to see the level design ingredients or the game designer path," said creative director Patrice Desilets. "This time there is no path whatsoever." Vincent Pontbriand, Ubisoft associate producer, said: "In a regular, more linear, game what you would do is create game levels. In our case, since it involved cities in which you could travel anywhere, we quickly realised it was going to be impossible to customise the entire city that way, polygon by polygon. "So what we did was we created a bank of objects, what we call a Lego system, and this allowed us to produce the first templates for the cities quickly by adding and removing blocks. "Then we were able to do the same things with objects and eventually with the characters and the population itself." While larger environments that allow the player more freedom are certainly a bonus, there is still more to be done before a game can earn that next gen title. Background characters Probably one of the biggest challenges facing games is to make computer controlled characters more lifelike. This is where the hardware buried inside the latest consoles proves so useful. "The tendency in technology is to move towards multi-core, multi CPU type of machines," explained AI programmer Matthieu Mazerolles. "What this means is instead of having just one processing unit you literally have several, sometimes up to a dozen all within the same box. More than 200 models were used as the templates for characters "What this allows us to do is to take all of the calculations, which are highly complex, that go into making the AI seem alive, and distribute these across many different processors." Said Ms Raymond: "We worked on this whole kind of physics systems for when you bump into people and push them out of the way, so that tactile thing really felt real. "So bumping into a group of people will make you fall over, running full force into a small woman will knock her over." One of the tools the company has worked on is something which generates crowds of diverse people. "For NPCs we have hundreds and hundreds of different looking characters, that were the templates we used to create our initial models," said Mr Pontbriand. "But then we created our own technology to take those templates, cut them down into pieces and then, with the technology, added the ability to randomise between skin colour, clothes, hair colour. "We ended up with a multiplying factor, so these sketches that became models ended up producing thousands of different variations in game." 'A player's story' Increased production values, emotional involvement, environments that have more bearing on the world - could all of these elements help shift games from what many perceive to be a marginalised ghetto into the mainstream? "As an entertainment medium, games are really just scratching the surface," said Ms Raymond. "I think we are at where we were with film when we made the transition from silent films to films that were telling a story with sound and dialogue. "We are just at the point of discovering what we can do with interactivity and what's an interactive story where you are creating a story for players, but it really has to become the player's story." Said Mr Desilets: "I strongly believe the more we go on with next gen the less we will see video game rules apparent, they will be more and more hidden and the experience will be a lot more immersive because you won't see the video game rules that only gamers really like."