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New 2010 logo gets mixed reviews

Ilanaaq will be symbol and messenger of Vancouver Olympics

It appears that you either love it or you hate it.

It is either an internationally recognizable symbol of friendship or a static image that perpetuates the stereotype of Canada as a barren, cold land where you need stones to point the way because there are so few people.

No matter what the on-going feelings of Canadians, the new logo for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games is here to stay.

Ilanaaq, which means friendship, is the name of the stylized Inukshuk – an Arctic symbol of hospitality and guidance – that was chosen from among 1,600 entries as the 2010 Olympic logo. Ilanaaq was unveiled last weekend in a spectacular event in Vancouver hosted by the Vancouver Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games.

The reaction to its unveiling was almost immediate. The First Nations Summit, an organization which represents 150 First Nations communities in B.C., said they were going to write to the IOC to protest the use of an Inuit symbol rather a West Coast Native creation.

But Mount Currie Chief Leonard Andrew said he liked the stylized Inukshuk right away.

"I think it is very interesting and it is very similar to our pictographs so I can relate to it as a native symbol," he said, adding that protesting it is disrespectful of the northern peoples.

Andrew believes that once everyone learns the story of Ilanaaq they will be touched by the symbol.

He was also thrilled to have Mount Currie residents participate in the unveiling event.

"What was really touching about it to me was that my own people were there not only partaking in the event and being exposed but also in the audience," said Andrew.

"And it feels good that VANOC is standing by its word to include the four host nations all the way along, not just in the opening and closing ceremonies."

The Lil’wat, the Squamish Nation, the Musqueam, and the Tsleil-Waututh are all partners with VANOC in hosting the Games.

Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob, while disappointed that the logo doesn’t represent West Coast native culture, believes the logo will work for the Games.

"I was hoping beyond hope that we would have something with a West Coast First Nations theme, but experts chose this," he said.

It may have been, said Jacob, that so many of the West Coast native art themes are so complicated that they could not be easily turned into a logo which must be able to be reproduced on something as small as a pin.

Whistler based Origin Design and Communications owner Danielle Kristmanson believes the logo will work well too.

"I think it is very strong, which is something I like in a logo," she said.

She also pointed to the fact that it is a character so it can be animated and used in other ways as the Games continue to market themselves.

However, she did feel that the logo failed to represent the sport in the Games as it is made out of stone and is a static image. And it only represented one part of Canadian culture.

"I think it is missing the boat on a few things," said Kristmanson.

"But I think that is the problem – Canada is so culturally diverse that landing on any one thing would put you up against it."

Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly admitted it was not what he expected, but he has grown to like Ilanaaq.

"It wasn’t what I was anticipating," he said. "I thought, of course, there was going to be a maple leaf in the middle of it all. But once you read the literature behind it becomes a more compelling story."

Tourism Whistler president Barrett Fisher also believes the logo will work.

"I think it is very powerful in its simplicity," she said. "I think it embraces a number of levels. It has some compelling messaging when it comes to leading the way: friendship, peace and the warmth and welcoming of our Canadian, British Colombian, Vancouver, and Whistler culture."

VANOC spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade said the organization wanted to choose a logo that represented Canada, and not just the West Coast.

"While there were many entries that represented beautiful and compelling aboriginal art from British Columbia, we really asked (the judges) to look at a full range of entries with a mind not just to the art work but to a compelling story," she said.

"The one chosen has a combination of an emblem Canadians can identify with and it has a compelling story that we believe is consistent with the values of the organizing committee and the Games and the Olympic movement as a whole."

Elena Rivera MacGregor, of Vancouver’s Rivera Design Group Ltd. produced the winning logo.