another article about Montreal in the Globe and Mail...
I love how they say that its the only city that never truly sleep
Big dreams in Canada's city that never sleeps
Saturday, July 16, 2005 Updated at 2:26 AM EDT
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Montreal — Promise Alexandre Despatie in a Speedo and they will come.
The titillating marketing campaign plastered around Montreal leaves little doubt that organizers of the World Aquatic Championships opening today are counting on the dark and dreamy 20-year-old Canadian diving divo to stimulate spectators' interest, if not heart rates.
But if most of the 2,300 athletes gathered for the biggest sporting event the city has played host to since the 1976 Olympics will make their mark in the water, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay is making his by seemingly walking on it.
Mr. Tremblay's power of persuasion is credited with winning back the championships that officials of FINA, the International Swimming Federation, lacking financial guarantees, withdrew from Montreal in December.
“He just refused to take no for an answer,” noted Montreal lawyer and International Olympic Committee member Richard Pound, who signed on as honorary chair of the event officially known at the XI FINA World Championships. “He agreeably surprised a lot of people.”
Mr. Tremblay did it again this month when he pulled out all the stops to help prevent the Shriners from moving their hospital to London, Ont. He did it a couple of years ago, too, when federal anti-tobacco legislation threatened the city's Grand Prix Formula One race. In each instance, Mr. Tremblay mounted a formidable offence and silenced the doubting Thomases.
The indefatigable mayor's crusades to save his city's international honour have imbued Montrealers with an unexpected affection for a politician many pundits once considered about as boring as, well, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. A nerdist technocrat elected in 2001 on a wave of anti-amalgamation protest by suburban voters, the bespectacled mayor has become the most passionate partisan of the new merged city, Canada's second-biggest metropolis with a population of 1.6 million. By all accounts, Montrealers have found the “real” Mr. Tremblay, who is up for re-election on Nov. 6, worth getting to know.
“People's perception of me has changed because they've seen concrete results,” the avuncular 62-year-old mayor reasoned in a rare moment of immodesty.
Well, yes and no. Montrealers still measure their potholes in metres. The city still counts some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. Olympic Stadium, vacant since last year's departure of baseball's Expos, is still a white elephant, albeit an architecturally distinctive one. Montreal's waterworks are leaking more water than they deliver to residents. The city's Métro, a symbol of the modernism that made Montreal a magnet for the world during Expo 67, badly needs a $3-billion facelift.
But for the first time in a long time, Montrealers nourish dreams that their city can become a great one. Mr. Tremblay has given them goals that, suddenly, seem worth striving for. None is as ambitious as the objective of making the city one of the six richest in North America by 2025. Among the 26 largest urban agglomerations in Canada and the United States, ranked by per capita income, Montreal currently stands 26th.
Still, the only Canadian city that truly never sleeps has a lot going for it in its quest to get its Sixties groove back.
“This is still ‘the' city in Canada,” Mr. Pound insisted. “It's still our international city, our most cosmopolitan city, the one people outside the country know.”
It's also our sexiest. Which may or may not be why the World Congress of Sexology chose Montreal for its biennial convention this year. At any rate, the more than 2,000 mostly PhDs who met in the city this week couldn't have picked a more propitious place. Montrealers, especially in the steamy summer, are anything but prudish.
Mr. Tremblay has, it seems, persuaded voters that he isn't either. Initially parodied for his faux pas (he once congratulated the Alouettes for winning the Stanley Cup), he is now celebrated for them. The most recent: a double-cheeked smooch for Dutch Princess Margaret. It was a breach of protocol, but that is just the welcoming way in Montreal.
Mr. Tremblay, who served as industry minister under the Liberal government of former premier Robert Bourassa, belied his Cartesian reputation by fighting to keep the swim championships despite a severe budget shortfall.
“I took a calculated risk in order to protect Montreal's credibility internationally,” he said. “It was a question of Montrealers' pride.”
The 2,300 athletes, 1,000 coaches and 1,400 out-of-town journalists will pump about $50-million into the city's economy during the two weeks of the championships.
But if the $40-million event loses money, Montrealers, not FINA, will mop up the deficit.
The mayor has spared no effort to ensure that doesn't happen, personally becoming co-chair of the championships. He personally pressured corporate and legal big wigs to pay $1,000 each for tickets, raising $1-million.
The championships have largely met their goal of $9-million in corporate sponsorships. Their financial success now hangs on selling about 200,000 tickets. About half were sold as of yesterday, but organizers are confident that Montrealers will show their support.
And just in case, to stimulate Montrealers' civic senses, it doesn't hurt to have lithesome specimens selling tickets in Speedos.
Mr. Despatie, a silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics, and American Michael Phelps, who won six gold medals in Athens, are the biggest draws of the championships. But Mr. Tremblay, Speedo or not, is their true champion.