Emblem for Winter Olympics inspired by Inukshuk

Inukshuk at English Bay, Vancouver

The emblem of the Olympic Winter Games is a colourful humanoid with arms spread wide, a contemporary interpretation of a stone landmark called an Inukshuk with a history stretching back more than 3,000 years in Inuit culture.

Sitting atop the Olympic Rings, the symbol looms large on licensed merchandise and is sure to generate curiosity once the Games are under way.

An Inukshuk (in-OOK-shook) is a carefully balanced pile of unworked rocks and slabs. The Inuit have built them through time to guide travellers, assist with hunts, warn of danger or indicate caches of food.

With a more human look, the design for the Olympic emblem was chosen in 2005 from about 1,600 proposals to represent hope, friendship, hospitality and teamwork, according to Vancouver organizers.

Named Ilanaaq (ih-LAH-nawk), meaning friend, it was cast in Canada’s red and two shades of blue, along with green, yellow and gold, to evoke the host country’s sweeping forests, mountains, islands and sunsets.

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