Medals designed for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are making history this year. Each undulating medal is unique, including a section of a larger contemporary Aboriginal art work, will be a one-of-a-kind work of art. The design is inspired by the ocean waves, drifting snow and mountainous landscape found in the Games region and throughout Canada.
The Olympic medals are circular in shape, while the Paralympic medals are a superellipse, or squared circle. The gold, silver and bronze medals were designed with direct input from Olympic and Paralympic athletes who shared their experiences about medals they won at past Games and what they would like to see in future medals.
The medals were produced and supplied by the Royal Canadian Mint with gold, silver and copper sourced by Teck Resources Limited. The gold, silver and copper used in the medals was recovered from end-of-life electronics circuit boards collected and processed at Trail and the Umicore facilities in Belgium which was then combined with metal from other sources for the medal production.
The medals are based on two large master artworks of an orca whale (Olympic) and raven (Paralympic), by Corrine Hunt, a Canadian designer of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage. Each medal will include its own signature elements of the orca and raven artwork, such as the suggestion of the orca’s eye, the curve of its dorsal fin, or perhaps the contours of the raven’s wing.
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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 the waters off Canada’s West Coast but are also found in all the world’s oceans. The strong black wings and proud beaked profile of the raven appear in a three-part composition in the style of a totem pole. The bird, species of which can be found around the globe, is often associated with transformation and healing abilities and represents determination, creativity and wisdom.
The undulating form of the medals was produced by industrial designer and architect Omer Arbel.
In addition to the Aboriginal art, the obverse side of the medals is embossed with the Olympic Rings or Paralympic agitos and the hand-cropped section of the orca or raven design is lasered on with a subtle wood grain effect. 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. 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 medals this year are being presented with a carrying case made of heathered woolf felt with tonal embroidery and an antiqued metal emblem. Many athletes said that while they treasure the decorative boxes they usually receive, they needed something equally suited for everyday transport to visit schoolchildren or
dignitaries. Some athletes even said they carried their gold, silver or bronze medals in old socks or the soft velvet bags that protect whiskey bottles!
VANOC received 48 medal design ideas from across Canada and internationally after issuing a request for proposals in December 2007.