The Olympic Torch is a designer’s elephant trap, best to keep it simple and avoid it looking like a phallic banana, medieval battle-mace or a prop from the Ray Harryhausen movie Clash of the Titans. The most remarkable thing about the Torch (note the capital T as it has been tagged as a proper noun, denoting its status as a unique entity) is that hasn’t been sold to a corporate brand and called the ‘Big Torch’ or ‘the world’s favourite Torch’. Although there is still time for News International to make a bid to adopt it as a redemptive standard-bearer.
Designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, in partnership with product engineers Tecosim, in Basildon, and manufactured in Coventry by The Premier Group, the Torch is one of the most graceful in the history of the Olympic Movement – standing 800mm high and weighing 800g. As a piece of design the Barber-Osgerby Olympic flame carrier looks good, does the job and includes almost druidical elements of symbolism. The pentagonal rim around the top of flame signifies the five Olympic rings. Its gold-coloured form is perforated by 8,000 small cut-out circles, representing the 8,000 Torchbearers. There will be two thousand and twelve (that’s 2,012) ‘inspirational’ members of the public chosen through a ‘Moment to Shine’ nomination, out of a total of 8,000 people who will carry the Olympic Flame on its 70-day 8,000 mile journey across the UK next summer.
Further, the triangular design has been inspired by the concept of symbolic multiples of three – the Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship – the Olympic motto is faster, higher, stronger – the UK has hosted the Olympic Games in 1908, 1948 and 2012 – the London 2012 Olympic Games ethos of sport, education and culture.
The Torch will also be sold and the cost recouped by the organisers. But there is a previously overlooked possible future for the Torch. In a similar spirit to the rickshaw cyclists of London, it could signify the return of the Linkman to the metropolitan scene as an attendant hired to carry a torch for pedestrians in dark streets. The prospect of Soho revellers escorted safely home in the early hours by torch bearers is both ecological, replacing the carbon footprint with a real one, and provides employment for London.
Image: London 2012 Olympic Torch. Courtesy of LOCOG; Olympic torches – 1946-2000.