Olympic enlightenment for 2013

It is that time of the year when one looks forward with good resolutions, and backward with wisdom, a sense of fulfilment, or possibly a tad of shame because that same person realises that this year's resolutions looks a little bit too similar to last year's... When I personally look back at 2012, two events stand out: my son's first badge of honour as a 2-year old skier (he just grabbed a couple more by the way), and the Olympics in London.

I will not dwell on the earlier as paternal pride is self-explanatory, let alone for a mountain dweller... But I wanted to come backs on the Olympics, from a different angle than the one I originally adopted at their completion. This time around I want to look at two of their most iconic symbols: the rings and the flame.

Circles of excellence.

If the Olympic flag with its interlocked rings is a universal iconography, I was amazed that many ignore its symbol. Five rings, five colours, represent the five continents interwoven in unison and parity. Oceania is obviously blue, the old industrial Europe was granted the coal-like black, the Americas were attributed the red, sun-drenched Africa is yellow and Asia green.

Stretching that basic concept, graphic designer Gustavo Sousa worked from statistical data to produce a series of infographics that followed the same legend. It was soon to be realised that Baron de Coubertin's idea of five egalitarian continents is not viable outside the sport fields.

For instance:
Source: Fubiz, more of these infographics here

Unity in a melting pot.

The Olympic flame travels from Greece and comes to light up a cauldron in a spectacular manner and to burn through the fortnight as a testament of the passion that unites the participants. People usually recall the torch or potentially how it was lit. In Barcelona for instance, an archer shot an arrow to ignite the furnace. In Grenoble, back in 1968, a microphone was stuck on the chest of the Olympian who ran up an endless flight of stairs with the torch in hand, letting everyone hear his heartbeat pounding at a tremendous pace... But who actually remembers the cauldron. No one. Once the games are over cities are left with a metal disc that is prone to catch the rain and rust... But not London's.

Thomas Heatherwick was given a simple mandate: make it static... He ignored the brief and went back to the symbol to create a memorable cauldron that actually meant something. 204 copper petals, one for each competing nation, were gathered along the opening ceremony on long pipes before being lit up, and at the climax of the night, each individual flame converged to create a single, united fire.
image source: LOCOG

I like that design because it is memorable, beautiful and more importantly meaningful. The medium becomes the message...

With that last thought on people differences and the ability to bring them together in unison, I very much look forward to 2013 for further enlightenment. Happy new year to you, reader of these lines. 

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