It wouldn’t be an Olympic logo without some form of controversy. Granted, it’s just a little controversy, but the Vancouver Winter Olympics design has one..

Nothing terribly earth-shattering to tell you about the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics logo. It’s a bit of old news really, having been unveiled almost five years ago during the official ceremony in Vancouver. But as this is a blog devoted to logo design, and as the games opened this morning, I’d be remiss in my duties if we didn’t take a cursory glance of the logo that will represent the Winter Olympics for the next sixteen days or so. First things first and giving credit where it’s due, the logo was designed by Vancouver artists, Elena Rivera MacGregor and Gonzalo Alatorre, at the time from the Riviera Design Group, beating out 1,600 other submissions to win the gig.

Meet Ilanaaq the inukshuk

Inukshuk-stoneThe colorful little dude in the design is supposed to represent a blobby version of an inukshuk, a traditional rock landmark (left) used by Native peoples in the Arctic region of North America, more specifically by the Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik and Canada’s Inuit who feature an inukshuk on their Nunavut territorial flag (below right). Apparently the Olympic design is based on a real-life version located in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. No-one’s really sure why people started Nunavut-territorial-flagerecting them all over the place and theories range from acting as navigation aides to a marker for Caribou hunting grounds. I was always told that the stone formations were some sort of “welcome” symbol, and if the number of these things perched on driveways up in Cottage Country are any indication, so do a lot of others. Maybe the designers of this logo too. The little dude has a name Ilanaaq (pronounced “el la nawk”), which means “friendship” in Inuktitut.

Logo controversy: Inukshuk or Inunnguaq?

There was some confusion, and a little bit of controversy when the logo was introduced. See, technically, and according to some anyway, real inukshuk are NOT depictions of humans and aren’t built inunnguaq-rock-statuewith heads, legs and arms. Apparently those are called inunnguaq (which translates into “something that looks like a human being”) another thing entirely (left. Photo by Ansgar Walk). Apparently the ONLY people who build inukshuk to represent people are folks who aren’t Inuit, which kinda blows the cultural reference of the logo all to hell. Did you follow all that? Don’t feel bad. It took me a couple of times and I wrote the damn thing.

Others were annoyed that one of their cultural symbols had been turned into a quasi cartoon character that appeared, with its day-glo colors and rounded edges, to be constructed from Silly Putty, not the granite and stone of its supposed inspiration. There were also claims that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and VANOC (The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games) were taking enormous intellectual property liberties, trademarking something that was part of First Nations‘ cultural history and even getting a special bit of Canadian government legislation to give them more protection than usual.

Olympic game protests.

To some the logo became a graphic representation of non-natives poaching on native peoples’ traditions, fitting right in with the protests against the games themselves. The list of grievances is long, everything from claims that the events are being held on stolen native lands, to claims of Olympic corruption, from claims of Ecological Destruction to accusations of Colonialism and Fascism. The ongoing protests aren’t getting much in the way of network TV coverage despite attracting more than 5,000 anti-gamers, some of whom clashed with police outside the opening ceremonies at the Vancouver stadium. Never mind all that though – look at the wonderful artwork..vancouver-2010-olympics-artworkThat is nice, huh?

Olympic logo colors. Where’s the black?

Most people are aware that the five rings in the Olympic logo represent the five continents (Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania) and that the official colors are blue, yellow, black, green, and red. Here’s the funny thing though.


Colors used in the 2010 Olympics games logo are supposed to reflect these colors, but somehow black got left out, replaced at some point with a royal blue. So did a continent somehow get dropped from the design? It would appear so. Which one? No way of telling. While colors in the logo – originally designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the IOC founder – represent the five continents, nobody’s quite sure which color represents which one. Good old Pierre might know, but he won’t tell us. Cause he’s dead. According to officials, the colors in the 2010 Winter Games logo represent “different regions of Canada: the green and blues symbolize coastal forests, mountain ranges and islands.” The red is supposedly reflective of Canada’s Maple Leaf while the yellow depicts a sunrise.

Uh-huh. Now, where’s the black?