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Carrying a torch for the torch design

February 10, 2010 |  3:03 pm


Bombardier makes aircraft and subway cars. So when VANOC, the organizing committee for the Vancouver Olympics, asked the company to work on the design of the Olympic torch, senior designer Tim Fagan knew it would be a difficult task.

Everyone had an idea of what the torch should incorporate and represent. It's a symbol, but it also has to be practical and protect the flame as it is handed off on a cross-continent journey that will end Friday at BC Place.

"The VANOC people had an idea for the look and feel and colors and what they wanted in general, but they wanted to allow us to be creative, and they shared with us some of the inspirations and images that had inspired them," Fagan said by phone from Montreal.

"We were inspired by the natural world, the sites of Vancouver and Whistler, the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the ocean, the mountains, the forests and snow. Also, with the Games happening in Canada, we wanted to impart a sense of the winter landscape."

Oh, and one other requirement: "It was important that it not be too heavy," Fagan said. "The torchbearers cover a broad range of ages and abilities."

The design they came up with is unusual. Instead of the traditional cup shape with the flame coming out of the top, the flame comes out from the side "so that as you move forward, the flame is draping behind you, almost like a flag," Fagan said. The torch itself is a slender, curving, 37-inch column that weighs 3 1/2 pounds. including the fuel. It's made mostly of stainless steel and aluminum.

"We wanted a dynamic shape that had a sense of motion," Fagan said. "The undulating lines on the side are like those left when a skier descends or a snowboarder descends for the first run of the day."

As torches go, it's unique. "We're very happy and very proud of the final result," Fagan said.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Downtown Vancouver is pictured in the distance as figure skater Victor Kraatz carries the Olympic flame during the Olympic torch relay in North Vancouver on Feb. 10. Credit: Associated Press