A (Very) Brief History of Canadian Olympic Souvenir Design

A (Very) Brief History of Canadian Olympic Souvenir Design

Tammy Everts
Feb 8, 2010

Here in Vancouver, we're counting down the last four days until the start of the winter Olympics. The Games may have yet to begin, but we've been inundated with Olympics-related merchandising for months. Wondering how much use these collectibles are actually going to get after Olympic fever dies down, I decided to dig around and see what kinds of artifacts from past Canadian Olympics are still considered valued design objects for the home today.

My first stop was, of course, the amazing Canadian Design Resource, which yielded a handful of souvenirs and souvenir-inspired pieces.

The Amik Quilt is made using reclaimed souvenir scarves from the '76 Winter Olympics in Montreal (arguably the most stylish and design-conscious of all the Games hosted by Canada). Designed by Sarah Gee and Lindsay Brown for Ouno, this quilt is currently on display in the exhibition Cut Copy Paste: Creative Reuse in Canadian Design at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

The Montreal '76 carry-on bag is seven different kids of awesome. I would use one right now if I were lucky enough to score one.

This poster – again, from the '76 Games – has become a national icon. Incredibly hard to find, these posters are cherished by those who manage to get their hands on one.

It isn't often that a building is considered a stunning architectural achievement and a massive engineering flop at the same time. This Montreal Stade Olympique souvenir commemorates both. Designed by Roger Taillibert for the 1976 Summer Olympics and instantly hailed as a feat of architectural genius, the stadium has since suffered a roof collapse and a myriad of other structural problems. All told, the stadium has cost an estimated $2 billion to build and maintain. This souvenir, however, probably cost significantly less and still seems to be in pretty good shape.

I'm kind of in love with this little tray, also produced for the '76 Olympics. (Interestingly, Canada's interim Olympics – the 1988 Calgary Games – seem to be suspiciously absent from the CDR website... possibly due to the fact that its logo, while pretty, looks like a slightly alarming cross between a snowflake, a maple leaf, and a pentagram.)

So, in a nutshell, when it comes to Olympian design, the '76 Montreal Olympics dominate the game. Was it the beaver? Possibly. We Canadians do love our beavers, even if most of us have never actually laid eyes on one in real life.

Can't get enough Canuckistani design? Check out all the Olympics-related entries (there are many) at the Canadian Design Cenre.

Want to see the collectibles that are available for the 2010 Games and place your bets on which has potential to earn a place in design history? Visit the Official Vancouver 2010 Olympic Store.

(Images: Canadian Design Resource)

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