Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Designing The Iconic Flame - A Visual History Of The Olympic Torch

Source: Rio 2016

Design is the marriage of message and motif. It is the intersection of identity and icon. In crafting a logo or a slogan or a character, the end symbol is the summation of both the shape and the story.

That’s why the images of the Olympic Games have reached such exalted status. The five rings are a beacon of continental unity. The posters and medals and mascots have linked arms through the years to provide an intriguing portrait of episodic design trends and nationalistic pride.

Source: Rio 2016

Looking back at the summer and winter Games, we have offered reviews of: 

The Olympic torch is an often-overlooked aspect of sports history. Many viewers might remember the televised cauldron lightings, but few can recall the specifics of each particular torch style. This is a shame, because the Rio 2016 cresset is a testament to careful design and deeply embedded meaning.

The Rio torch, as always, represents “peace, unity, and friendship.” This particular beacon, however, features many other subtle elements to personify the flair and landscape of Brazil. For example, this torch is the first to extend and grow. From the official Olympics site:

Source: Rio 2016
The hues and textures of the expanded torch pay tribute to the gold Brazilian sun, the green mountain curves, the blue ocean ripples, and the grounded Copacabana promenade. The winning design from Chelles & Hayashi was chosen unanimously from 76 nationwide submissions. Additionally, “each torch – crafted from recycled aluminum and resin with a satin finish – weighs between 1kg and 1.5kg and stands 63.5cm high when contracted and 69cm when expanded.”

For a look back at past Olympic torches, this wiki outlines a complete list of manufacturers and designers. For a visual gallery, the Olympic site includes icons going back to the 1936 Berlin Games.

Personally, our historic favorites are the art deco Innsbruck 1976, the knifed Sydney 2000, and this year’s evocative Rio 2016:


Our least favorites are the spatulaed Montreal 1976, the cucumbered Albertville 1992, and the twizzlered Sochi 2014


For other ideas about teaching with the Olympics, we recommend:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Visualizing The Summer Olympics - Mapping The 2016 Rio Torch Relay

Source: Rio 2016 Olympics Wiki

On Friday, August 5, 2016, the eyes of the world will be fixated on Rio de Janeiro for the opening ceremonies of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. The #RoadToRio has notoriously been potholed by damaging news stories about Zika mosquitos, water pollution, construction delays, financial collapse, and rampant crime. Still, the tenacity of the tireless athletes and the nobility of the Olympic quest will unite the globe for two weeks and will present terrific opportunities for visualizations and education.

Source: Rio 2016

The torch relay, in particular, inaugurates the Games as the flame travels from its Greek origins to then crisscross Brazil in an escalating parade of famous athletes and historic sites. Mapping this journey through graphics and animations offers valuable chances to learn about geography and culture.

The official Rio 2016 site offers dynamic options for tracking the path of the torch, via calendar photos, city routes, and regional celebrations. The video highlights include both an animated map of each destination and a behind-the-scenes tribute to the nation's citizens. Across 95 days, the torch will pass through 12,500 road miles, 10,000 air miles, and 12,000 people.

Source: Rio 2016

For better or worse, current events also feature prominently in the torch's travelogue (much like the 2014 Sochi controversies). At various stops, the Rio carriers have so far been attacked with a fire extinguisher, beset by an unruly jaguar, and accused of carrying a "cursed" flame.

In essence, the torch relay is a fitting cavalcade to the heroic spirit of the competition. It builds anticipation for the contests to come, and it shines a spotlight on the country's locales and heritage. It also welcomes the world into a terrain that may be unfamiliar. This widening of the learning lens is crucial in pushing students to look outside themselves. Sydney's 2000 triumph and Beijing's 2008 spectacle both prove the worth of these quadrennial jamborees.

For more ideas about exploring the Olympics or using the Games in education, check out:
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