Roughly five months into cataloguing and digitizing the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Legacy Collection, it can be stated that the process is a lot more exciting than it probably should be. Along with the torch Wayne Gretzky used to light the Olympic Cauldron and the racks of intricate costumes worn by performers in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, there are also boxes of paper material containing years of licenses, correspondences, and memos.
It’s a common assumption that paper material seldom equals gripping material. But among the inter-office scraps are pockets of brilliance, such as a collection of sketches and photographs used as inspiration for VANOC’s signature “Look of the Games”: the sweeping green and blue graphic vistas peppered with prototypically West Coast and urban motifs. It’s inspiring to leaf through a folder and see how hand cut stencils were incorporated into a design that became a second skin for Vancouver during the Games of 2010.
For the philatelists among us, international post bureau websites have been scoured to acquire information regarding Olympic issue stamps. Blindly trying to decipher Cyrillic characters on postage stamps quickly lost its novelty, but it’s fascinating to see which sports countries chose to depict. Seemingly few pandered to their Canadian host. Most stamps feature skiing, whether alpine or Nordic, over ice hockey. A personal favourite are those from Hungary, which rival the Vancouver 2010 mascots in terms of a sense of unbridled joy (or cuteness, if we’re going to get really technical).
Speaking of the mascots, we have become well versed in the surprisingly elaborate backstories of Quatchi, Miga, Sumi, and Mukmuk. This is in addition to charting their evolution from simple line drawings to 3D renderings to officially licensed Olympic merchandise and full-sized costumes.
While to date it has been fulfilling to discover these gems (we’ve got roughly another 1,200 objects to go), it would be a lie to say handling the medals and the torch hasn’t been a highlight. The medals are astoundingly heavy; frankly, it’s a wonder exhausted athletes didn’t crumple under their weight. Even more astonishing are the number of hands both the medals and the torch passed through, from their inception to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the nightly Victory Ceremonies.
Many of us watched as athletes bit down on their gold medals, or as the Olympic flame was passed from torch to torch. But not many of us got to watch as a print of an orca’s dorsal fin became a medal struck at the Royal Canadian Mint. The technical prints and sketches allow us to visualize the massive collective effort behind Vancouver’s Games of 2010. This is why the paper material ends up being much more gripping than one would initially expect.
Jillian Povarchook is the MOV's Collections Associate.