Thursday, October 15, 2009

Meet the Medals of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games

Their undulating forms evoke British Columbia’s mountains, ocean and snow. Their faces are drawn from West Coast First Nations artwork depicting the orca and raven. Each is unique. And their substantial size gives them a significant presence. Meet the medals of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Today, VANOC and Vancouver 2010 Official Supporters — the Royal Canadian Mint and Teck Resources Limited — unveiled the Olympic and Paralympic medals that will decorate the gold, silver and bronze medallists of the 2010 Winter Games.

The Creators

Paralympic medals Making the 2010 Winter Games medals was a two-year project because they’re so unique. It was a collaborative effort between Canadian Aboriginal designer/artist, Corinne Hunt, internationally renowned industrial designer, Omer Arbel, the Royal Canadian Mint, Teck Resources Limited, and VANOC’s in-house design team. Together this team created medals that reflect the magnitude of the accomplishments they represent: They are among the heaviest medals in Olympic and Paralympic history, weighing between 500 grams to 576 g depending on the medal. As for size, the Olympic medals are 100 millimetres in diameter and about six mm thick, while the Paralympic medals are 95 mm wide and about six mm thick.

Orca and the Raven

The blueprints for these medals are based on two large master artworks (Olympic and Paralympic) from which each of the medals was hand-cropped. No crop is the same as another so that ensures every medal is unique. The master artworks were created by Corrine Hunt, a Vancouver, BC-based artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage. Hunt chose the orca as the motif for the Olympic medals, and the raven as the motif for the Paralympic medals.

Olympic medals reverse side The orca, designed across four panels in the style of a traditional West Coast First Nations bentwood box, is often associated with the attributes of strength, dignity and teamwork. The sleek and powerful black and white whales are common to travel in pods through the waters off Canada’s West Coast, but are also found in all the world’s oceans.

“The orca is a beautiful creature that is strong but also lives within a community. I felt the Olympic (Games) are a community, too. The athletes may be training but they’re always somehow connected to their community, to their teammates, or to their country. The orca is a creature that has wonderful capabilities but can’t really survive without its pod.”

Overall Olympic medal design For Hunt, the raven is symbolic of Paralympians. The strong black wings and proud profile appear in a three-part composition in the style of a totem pole. The raven, a species that can be found around the globe, is often associated with transformation and healing abilities and represents determination, creativity and wisdom.

“My design for the Paralympic medal — a raven on a totem rising — is close to my heart and in honour of my uncle who is a paraplegic. The raven is a creature that is all things and I think Paralympic athletes have that in them. They’re sometimes given challenges and they rise above them and the raven does the same. I think the creativity of the raven gives us hope — to accept when things don’t work out and really rejoice when they do.”

The International Paralympic Committee also recognizes the great significance of the raven for the Paralympic medal design.

“The choice of the raven as the artwork is especially important to us because it symbolizes the powers of transformation and determination — qualities every Paralympian embodies on and off the field of play,” said Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). "No doubt the beauty of these medals will spur them even higher as they strive to reach their dreams and triumph against adversity yet again in 2010.”

More Unique Traits

Overall Paralympic medal design The matte orca or raven design is lasered onto the front face of the medals, and within this design is a delicate wood grain pattern that can be seen up close. Canadian industrial designer and architect Omer Arbel, also of Vancouver, used his extensive knowledge of materials and fabrication processes to create the innovative undulating design of the medals, which are struck nine times each to achieve the distinctive look as part of the 30-step medal fabrication process.

The Olympic medals are circular in shape, while the Paralympic medals are a superellipse or squared circle.

Production Details

On the reverse side, the medals contain the official names of the Games in English and French, the official languages of Canada and the Olympic Movement, as well as Vancouver 2010’s distinctive emblems and the name of the sport and the event the medal was awarded in. On the Paralympic medals, braille is also used. The entire medal is protected to prevent tarnishing, nicks and scratches.

Paralympic medal reverse side The Games motto With Glowing Hearts/Des plus brillants exploits is written in white lettering on the medal’s blue and green ribbon where it will rest at the base of the neck.

The Royal Canadian Mint will produce 615 Olympic and 399 Paralympic medals for the 2010 Winter Games at their headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario. The Mint began striking the medals in July and will finish the historic task this November. It is the second time the Mint has manufactured Olympic medals; the first time they produced them was for the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games. Teck Resources Limited, a Vancouver-based mining, mineral processing and metallurgical company, is supplying the 2.05 kilograms of gold, 1,950 kg of silver and 903 kg of copper used in the production of the medals. The metals were sourced from Teck’s operations in British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Alaska, Chile and Peru.

Medals to Inspire

The word athlete is derived from the Greek word for prize-seeker. Looking at recent Games medals, it’s certain that athletic prizes have certainly evolved since the ancient Greek games in Olympia, where a wreath of olives was the only reward.

The hope is that these medals will be shared with children, families and the watching world. It symbolizes a life’s accomplishment and a dream come true, forever.

Canadian Veronica Brenner, 2002 Olympic silver medallist in aerials: “The great part about the medals is it’s something that reminds you for the rest of your life of the journey. Every single medal and every athlete have their own story about what they had to put into it and how they got there. A medal should be shared. I know I wasn’t alone in winning this medal. When I was standing up on the podium the last person I was thinking of was myself.”

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