2010 Vancouver Olympics: A Look at Innovative Design

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics showcased the creative design talent Canada has to offer. These Olympic Games provided designers, architects and engineers countless opportunities to exhibit their talent and innovation.  Whether it was the sustainable design of the Olympic medals, the engineering challenges of the torch or the artistic architecture of the podiums, Canada’s creativity shone through.

Olympic Medals:

Olympic Medals

2010 Vancouver Olympic Medals

The Olympic medals embodied the concept of sustainable design using end-of-life electronics for material procurement. Teck Resources harvested the gold, silver and bronze from circuit boards of old computers melting it down and casting it back into Olympic medals. These medals highlighted both the pearls of athletic accomplishment and the dangers that electronic waste can have on the environment.  With 11,000 computers being sent to the landfill daily in the United States, we don’t need to continually extract natural resources to make new products but instead think about deploying sustainability in our design practices.

Olympic Torch:

2010 Vancouver Olympic Torch

2010 Vancouver Olympic Torch

Canadians were proud when they held the Olympic torch during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games but few were aware of the engineering challenges that were overcome during the design of the torch. For Leo Obstbaum and the design team at Bombardier they were well aware of these challenges and constraints which included:

  • Must be easy to transfer the flame between torches
  • Must burn for at least 12 to 15 minutes
  • Burner must produce a visible flame in all weather conditions
  • Must be adaptable to attach or fix to alternative modes of transportation
  • Must be able to be manufactured in high quantities so each Olympic Torchbearer may purchase their torch as a commemorative keepsake

Each of these constraints was handled creatively; for example, the maple leaf on the back of the torch is not only a symbolic element, but has an important functional role as an air intake hole to ensure the Olympic Flame burns brightly during the coldest of winter days.  Gathering its design inspiration from the smooth, fluid lines left in snow and ice after playing winter sports - the final torch design carried the following features:

Height: 37.125 inches/ 94.5 centimetres

Weight: 3.5 pounds/1.6 kilograms

Operational temperature: -50° Celsius to +40° Celsius

Fuel: blend of propane, iso-butane and hydrocarbons

Materials used: white composite finish, stainless steel burner, aluminum core

Olympic Podiums:
2010 Vancouver Olympic Podium

2010 Vancouver Olympic Podium

The creative design of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic podiums revealed the snow-topped mountains of Vancouver and Whistler reflecting the fluidity and organic forms of the podiums. Designed by James Lee and Leo Obstbaum, the podiums are made from wood donated by communities, businesses, individuals and First Nations from across British Columbia. The complex design process for each podium employed over 200 wood pieces sourced from Western red cedar and Douglas fir, the end result was creative and innovative yet simple – embodying Canadian design principles.

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