A white elephant is an idiom for a valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth. The term derives from the story that the kings of Siam (now Thailand) were accustomed to make a present of one of these animals to courtiers who had rendered themselves obnoxious, in order to ruin the recipient by the cost of its maintenance. In modern usage, it is an object, scheme, business venture, facility, etc., considered to be without use or value.
Albino elephants exist in nature, usually being a reddish-brown or pink color.
The term derives from the sacred white elephants kept by Southeast Asian monarchs in Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. To possess a white elephant was regarded (and is still regarded in Thailand and Burma) as a sign that the monarch reigned with justice and power, and that the kingdom was blessed with peace and prosperity. The opulence expected of anyone that owned a beast of such stature was great. One must imagine golden palaces built to house the beast, attendant staff not limited to cooks, artisans, musicians …temples, keeping in mind the holy aspect of the white elephant, it would be akin to housing and caring for an entire church or congregation and having to devote every resource to its needs. Monarchs often exemplified their possession of white elephants in their formal titles (e.g., Hsinbyushin, lit. "Lord of the White Elephant" and the third monarch of the Konbaung dynasty).
The Olympic Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district of Montreal, Quebec, Canada built as the main venue for the 1976 Summer Olympics. The stadium is nicknamed "The Big O", a reference to both its name and to the doughnut-shape of the permanent component of the stadium's roof; "The Big Owe" name has also been used to reference the astronomical cost of the stadium and the 1976 Olympics as a whole.
The stadium is the largest by seating capacity in Canada. After the Olympics, it became the home of Montreal's professional baseball and Canadian football teams. Since 2004, when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, D.C., the stadium has no main tenant, and with a history of financial and structural problems, is largely seen as a white elephant. It currently serves as a 56,040-seat multipurpose facility for special events (e.g. concerts, trade shows), and continues to serve as a 66,308-seat venue for playoff and Grey Cup games hosted by the Montreal Alouettes. The Montreal Impact also use the stadium on occasion when a larger capacity venue is needed or when the weather restricts outdoor play in the spring months.
The tower incorporated into the base of the stadium, called the Montreal Tower, is the tallest inclined tower in the world at 175 metres (574 ft).