By now the Vancouver Olympics are well underway with tragedy and triumph amidst the pomp, circumstance and Apolo Ohno surprise. But long before the opening ceremonies and the lighting of the Olympic Flame, there were the torches, 12,000 in all, carried across more than 1,000 Canadian communities in the longest domestic Olympic torch relay in history. As far back as 2007, designers and engineers set about brainstorming ideas for the look, feel and mechanics of the torch. All of which reinforces the idea of design as one of the more important aspects of just about anything.
For inspiration, the designers at the Bombardier Company drew on the graceful, drifting and curving lines of snow “wake” left by skiers, skaters and snowboarders as they competed in the Olympics. Plus the sea and sky and oceans – always quite inspirational for designers. Previous torches tended toward a more cup-shaped approach but now it was time to rethink the ways of a dancing flame. They envisioned the new flame trailing like a flag in the breeze as each runner took to the rural and urban pathways across the Canadian landscape. Then came the engineers to turn the design into reality.
As it turns out, Bombardier is not a design company but rather it has been around for more than six decades, engineering planes and trains for the world. In their lexicon, VHS has nothing to do with video recording but refers to “Very High Speed,” as in trains. They’re hoping the U.S. goes the way of Europe and Asia with high-speed trains for “greener” and more efficient transportation. But meanwhile, they’re very proud of the three and a half pound, steel and aluminum torch that put them on the world stage and the Canadian map in a very literal way.
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