The official medals for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic game were unveiled on Thursday morning in Vancouver, featuring original West Coast aboriginal designs of an orca and a raven. The games are to be held in Vancouver, Canada from January 22 to March 21. The Olympic medals are circular in shape, while the Paralympic medals are a superellipse or squared circle.
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.
“The orca is a beautiful creature that is strong but also lives within a community,” said Hunt. “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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.