Barcelona, from the beach to my apartment, what I see when I go to the beach.
Olympic beach / port:
The Olympic port from another perspective (the big fish is from Ghery)
More beach moments and twin toers on the background:
Art Noveau buildings at the most luxurious street in Barcelona, Passeig de Gracia:
The same building from another point of view:
The hall of my home :
Well my first Photo Thread, I hope you like it. Soon more !
Revisiting Drapeau's personal Versaille
Alan Richman, National Post Published: Friday, January 25, 2008
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.
The Myth of Montreal
Posted 12 Feb 2008 at 12:18 PM by Bill Archer
There are a great many of you who will stop reading at the above title and skip right to the comments section which Huss thoughtfully provides in order for all and sundry to heap abuse on poor ink-stained wretches like Dan and I.
Fair enough. We can take it. (Just lay off of 10Shirt. He's a sensitive, New Age guy.)
So in the spirit of goodwill, mutual respect and bonhomie for which I am justifiably famous, herewith some "Inconvenient Truths" regarding Montreal fielding a team in MLS.
First off, let's look at Montreal's geographical dilemma, because lost somewhere in the discussion about whether Montreal is leaving USL1 is the fact that USL1 seems to be leaving Montreal.
This concept is illustrated perfectly by the history of the "Can-Am Cup" competition, which was a competition between Montreal, Toronto, Rochester and Syracuse. A nice little regional tournament which added a little drama to the season by highlighting natural rivalries.
Except that Syracuse folded in 2004, Toronto left the league in 2007 and there's a good chance Rochester will cease to exist in 2008. So much for natural rivalries.
In fact, USL1 used to have quite a few teams within a quick plane flight, and all of them - save the teetering Rochester Rhinos - are now just memories: Long Island collapsed in 2002. Pittsburgh and Indiana in 2003. Syracuse was gone in 2004. Virginia Beach in 2006. Toronto skipped to MLS in 2007.
And what new cities have taken their place? Well, there was Portland Oregon in 2001, followed by Puerto Rico in 2003 and Miami in 2005.
In other words, if Rochester really does go the way of all things, the shortest road trip and closest "regional rival" will be the Carolina Railhawks, in Cary, NC, a mere 871 miles away. If home and home grudge matches between those two don't light you up, your next choices would be Charleston, SC (1134 miles) St Paul (1240 miles) and their friendly neighbor Vancouver, which is a staggering 3000 miles from the stinky cheese of home.
And the league is welcoming a new member this year: Austin Texas (the obnoxiously named "Aztex"). Apparently the Dark Side of the Moon still has some stadium issues to sort out, but look for them in 2009.
In short, if you're a travel agent, the Impact is the Mother lode, Holy Grail, put-down-a-deposit-on-oceanfront-property of clients. By the end of 2008 they'll have racked up more frequent flier miles than Barack Obama.
Compare this planeride/hotel existence competing against a bunch of far distant cities the average Quebecois couldn't care less about with membership in Major League Soccer East:
Toronto anybody? How about New York? New England? DC? Possibly Philadelphia? Think maybe you could gin up a little fan interest in any of those games?
Talk about a no-brainer: step up to a Division 1 league offering readymade rivalries with major North American cities and have your travel expenses go down? Where do I sign? Get Garber on the horn!
Plus, as everyone knows, because it gets repeated on BigSoccer 50 times a day, Montreal is a) moving into a gleaming new Soccer Specific Stadium this April, b) Draws 12,000 fans a game in a minor league and c) is owned by a scion of the deep-pockets Saputo family, worldwide cheese purveyors.
What else could you possibly want? What kind of idiot is Don Garber, wasting time playing footsie with Philly and St Looey while this golden opportunity is just a quick hop across the border?
Well, to paraphrase Havey Keitel (Mr Wolf) in Pulp Fiction, let's not start "congratulating ourselves" quite yet, gentlemen. There are a couple of issues getting lost in the confetti here, to wit:
First of all, the Impact is not owned by team President Joey Saputo. After the team went bankrupt in 2002 (something nobody ever seems to mention) the team was resurrected as a non-profit organization owned by Saputo, the Quebec Government and Hydro-Quebec. It's charter is to serve as a representative for Montreal tourism and as an incubator for Quebec-born soccer talent.
So leaving aside the question of just how Phil Anschutz might feel about being partnered with a bunch of French-speaking politicians, and just how this ownership structure translates to MLS (and, honestly, it doesn't) there's the fact that a good deal of the Impact's success at the box office is due to the fact that they field as many Quebed-born players as they can find, another thing which won't likely translate well into MLS unless their goal is to lose all the time.
Furthermore, Saputo, who would have to be the one to take over ownership and become and MLS partner, has been bad mouthing MLS for the better part of a decade, very publicly disparaging the caliber of play and scoffing at any hint that he might be interested in joining up.
Back when MLS was desperate for someone - anyone - to step up and buy a team, Saputo ridiculed the idea that it was worth the $10 million asking price. A year or two later, when he could have bought in for $15 million, he announced that it just wasn't worth the money.
But maybe, as the USL has migrated away from Montreal, and after seeing Toronto's success last season, maybe he's changed his mind and, being the gracious, good-hearted, forgiving types that we are, why wouldn't we simply forgive and forget and - assuming he's changed his mind, a proposition for which there is but scant evidence - roll out the red carpet and welcome him with roses and champagne?
Short answer: his stadium.
Now, on any day of the week you can read dozens of BigSoccer expansion experts raving about the wonderful new stadium in Montreal. They'll tell you how, although it only seats 13,000, it is "expandable" to 18,000 (officially it was 17,000 but 18 sounds better, apparently) and if that's still a little small, well, why let that get in the way of a good story?
I would suggest to those of you who are dying to put MLS in that building to look at a couple facts. Starting with the cost of construction:
Among recent stadium projects, Red Bull Park will come in somewhere between $180-200 million. If memory serves, Bridgeview was built for around $100 million. Sandy Stadium is projected to wind up at roughly $115 million. Chester (Philadelphia) and the proposal in Miami both call for $100 million buildings.
Saputo Stadium (Stade Saputo for you Francophones) will be completed this April at a total cost of $15 million. Canadian.
By comparison, Columbus Crew stadium, which a lot of MLS fans denigrate as being a cheaply built galvanized erector set high school stadium cost Lamar Hunt over $28 million. Ten year ago.
So let's have a look at the gleaming soccer palace which so many of you insist ought to become an MLS venue immediately if not sooner, shall we?
The small cement block building in the corner is the combination restroom and concession stand. Just like your local high school only smaller.
The expansion to 17,000? They'll put another set of bleachers in the open end, where the consruction trailers are. It'll make all the difference, I'm sure.
Now this is a very nice little stadium for USL1. Works very well.
But for MLS? Seriously?
I mean, the place makes Crew Stadium look like Anfield.
Sorry, Montreal. It's just not going to happen.
Taken For A Ride In Montreal
Warning: Loyal reader ripped off by taxi driver at Montreal Airport.
by Wendy Perrin
Frequent globehopper Joe_Kayaker reports that he was "taken for a ride" when he landed at Montreal International recently:
"It was late in the evening, the shuttle bus to the Airport Novotel had stopped running at 10:00 p.m., and none of the taxis would take me on such a short trip. Grrr. I finally found a taxi driver who would take me. As we were driving to the hotel, he said he didn't understand why the Novotel was called an "airport hotel," since it's not really that close to the airport. We drove for quite a while, and the ride cost $30. When checking into the hotel, I asked how much a cab ride from the airport is supposed to cost and was told, 'No more than $15.' I overpaid by only 15 bucks (well, Loonies), but how does one avoid being taken in by unscrupulous taxi drivers? Thanks, Joe"
Joe, you paid $15 in what I call "tourist tax." I've been taken on circuitous routes and overcharged by cab drivers in many a city -- Cairo, Beijing, Moscow, New York -- but I have to say I'm surprised to hear of this occurring in orderly and lawful Montreal. Here's my test-driven advice for avoiding unscrupulous airport cabbies:
1) Ask the hotel in advance how long a taxi ride it is from the airport and what the cost should be. The Hotel Novotel Montreal Aeroport's web site says it's "just 10 minutes" from the airport and provides a map of the route (see left).
2) Before getting into a cab, ask the driver how much the ride will cost. If he quotes a price higher than what the hotel told you, offer your price. Negotiate and reach an agreement before stepping into the cab.
3) When you arrive at your destination, if the driver demands a higher price than was agreed to, ask for a receipt with the driver's name on it, write down his ID number (make known to him that you're recording it), and take out your camera to snap a picture of him and the car. Often, as soon as you pull out the camera, the driver will drop the price.
One more thought: If the hotel has a doorman or bellman, see if he can hold the cab while you notify the front desk that you're in the process of being ripped off. I've never done this myself, but I bring it up because a few weeks ago a hotel in Madrid happened to suggest just this. When I called the Tryp Atocha a few days before my arrival in Spain to confirm my online reservation and find out what the length and cost of a cab ride from the airport should be, the front-desk clerk volunteered that if the driver tried to overcharge I should tell the front desk and they would deal with him for me. I got the impression that they had done so for other guests in the past.
Hope this helps, Joe. Always good to hear from you.
By MESFIN FEKADU, Associated Press Writer
Sat Mar 21, 7:18 am ET
NEW YORK – As a steady stream of celebrities pay their last respects to Natasha Richardson, questions are arising over whether a medical helicopter might have been able to save the ailing actress.
The province of Quebec lacks a medical helicopter system, common in the United States and other parts of Canada, to airlift stricken patients to major trauma centers. Montreal's top head trauma doctor said Friday that may have played a role in Richardson's death.
"It's impossible for me to comment specifically about her case, but what I could say is ... driving to Mont Tremblant from the city (Montreal) is a 2 1/2-hour trip, and the closest trauma center is in the city. Our system isn't set up for traumas and doesn't match what's available in other Canadian cities, let alone in the States," said Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Centre, which represents six of Montreal's hospitals.
While Richardson's initial refusal of medical treatment cost her two hours, she also had to be driven to two hospitals. She didn't arrive at a specialized hospital in Montreal until about four hours after the second 911 call from her hotel room at the Mont Tremblant resort, according to a timeline published by Canada's The Globe and Mail newspaper.
Not being airlifted directly to a trauma center could have cost Richardson crucial moments, Razek said.
"A helicopter is obviously the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B," he said.
After Richardson fell and hit her head on a beginner ski slope at the Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec, the first ambulance crew left upon spotting a sled taking the still-conscious actress away to the resort's on-site clinic.
A second 911 call was made two hours later from Richardson's luxury hotel room as the actress deteriorated. Medics tended to her for a half-hour before taking her to a hospital about a 40-minute drive away.
Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Ste-Agathe does not specialize in head traumas, so her speedy transfer to Sacre Coeur Hospital in Montreal was critical, said Razek.
"It's one of the classic presentations of head injuries, `talking and dying,' where they may lose consciousness for a minute, but then feel fine," said Razek.
Richardson, 45, died Wednesday at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. The New York City medical examiner's office ruled her death was an accident.
On Friday evening, Richardson's husband, Liam Neeson, looked distraught but grateful for the outpouring of sympathy as he greeted grieving family members and friends who attended a private viewing for his wife.
Neeson was the last to leave the viewing at the Upper East Side's American Irish Historical Society, where he was joined by the couple's sons, — Micheal, 13, and Daniel, 12 — as well as Richardson's mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and sister, Joely Richardson. An array of famous friends came to express their sadness about the family's sudden loss.
Neeson hugged friends as he left the society's building at 8:40 p.m., after more than six hours of receiving condolences from friends including Mike Nichols, Diane Sawyer, Matthew Modine, Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Also among the stream of visitors were Kenneth Cole, Laura Linney, Fisher Stevens, Howard Stern, Stanley Tucci, Julianna Margulies and Mathilde Krim of the American Foundation of AIDS Research — amfAR. Richardson had served on the charity's board of trustees since 2006.
"She looked incredibly beautiful," Krim said, adding that everyone appeared to be in shock and Neeson looked distraught as he received everybody.
Theaters in London's West End dimmed their lights Friday to mark Richardson's death, just as Broadway theaters did Thursday. In a tribute to the stage and screen actress, the lights were lowered before the curtains went up on evening performances.
Associated Press writers John Carucci in New York and Amy Lutz at Mont Tremblant contributed to this report.