Share this article

print logo

SOME IN CANADA BOO INUIT ICON AS OLYMPICS LOGO

The smiling figure with a green head, bulky blue body and thick legs has caused quite a stir.

Detractors say Canada's new logo for the 2010 Winter Games looks more like Gumby or Pac-Man than an Olympic icon. West Coast natives are outraged at the nod to Inuit culture. And callers are flooding radio talk shows with unfriendly comments about Ilanaaq, whose name means friend in Inuktitut.

The official emblem was revealed April 23 during a televised gala where Olympic organizers explained why they chose Ilanaaq over 1,600 submitted entries.

John Furlong, chief executive officer of Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee, described the stocky figure as an inukshuk, an Inuit symbol used for centuries to point traveling Inuit to safety.

Elena Rivera MacGregor, the winning designer, said Canada's hospitality served as her muse: "As Canadians, we are proud of being friendly people; you know, we're . . . nonthreatening, and we smile."

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, sent a recorded message praising the design. Rogge said he sneaked a peek when he was in Vancouver a few months ago and immediately fell for the figure, which he said reminded him of a hockey goalie.

"Friendly" was the operative word of the evening, but within days, naysayers were griping about the logo's simplicity and even questioning the accuracy of its Inuit inspiration.

Norman Hallendy, an author and one of Canada's leading experts in the Inuit stone configurations, said the emblem most definitely is not an inukshuk.

For the record, he said, an inukshuk is a collection of stones assembled by the northern Inuit to serve as navigational beacons and can take many shapes. Similar stone figures that resemble humans are called innunguaq, he stressed.

But even as an innunguaq, Ilanaaq is generating some cranky reaction, especially among West Coast natives who call using an Inuit icon a slap in the face.

"It's kind of like a poke in the eye to First Nations people and First Nations artists," said Chief Edward John of British Columbia's First Nations Summit, which represents 150 native communities.

"Does inukshuk represent Canada?" he asked. "I hardly think so. It represents the North. Put it this way: If there were Games in Yellowknife and the logo was West Coast totem poles, do you think they'd be happy up there?"

Among other quibblers, one writer to a Vancouver paper said using the Inuit icon as an Olympic logo gives the impression that Canada is a barren, northern tundra. A caller to a radio show said Ilanaaq resembled the toy figurine Gumby.

A team of nine judges from Canada and abroad chose the winning entry.