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Olympic Graphic Images Embody Sports, Cultures
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The Beijing 2008 Olympic pictograms were designed to capture the dynamics of modern sports in pictograms inspired by early written Chinese.


Starting in March 2005, a group of experts from China Central Academy of Fine Arts and Academy of Arts and Design of Tsinghua University dedicated their creative powers to their design, which displays distinct motion, graceful aesthetic perception of movement and rich cultural connotations.


Such qualities made the pictogram set the final choice of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG).


Called "The Beauty of Seal Characters" and containing strokes resembling ancient Chinese seal characters, the Beijing 2008 pictograms combine the charm of inscriptions on bone and bronze objects from ancient China with modern athletic movement.


Chinese culture and sports


"The main distinguishing feature of the ancient Chinese characters is their pictography description using figures, which is what the Olympic pictograms do," said Hang Hai, assistant professor of China Central Academy of Fine Arts, one of the leaders of the design group.


"We decided to use the Chinese seal characters as the basic form of all the figures and what we had to do next is make them accurately reflect the movements in each sport."


"For each pictogram, we collected suggestions from many experts familiar with certain sports," said Qian Zhe, assistant professor at the Academy of Arts and Design School of Tsinghua University, another leader of the design group. "After rounds of improvement, we chose the most representative movement from each sport.


"In basketball, for example, we considered two main movements, shooting the ball and dunking, at the very beginning. Since shooting has rarely been used in Olympic icons before and is more appropriate with other sports, we decided on dunking."


According to Qian, like basketball, over 10 icons among the total 35 experienced multiple revisions.


"Because we had to use the most accurate movement to describe all the sports, as well as give consideration to the entirety, many icons were revised time and time again, such as the trampoline and gymnastics," Qian said. "We had to pay attention to all the details of a certain movement."


Within the 2008 Olympic pictograms, there are 35 different icons, which cover 37 disciplines from all of the 28 Olympic summer sports. The icons represent athletics, rowing, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, canoe / kayak flatwater, canoe / kayak slalom, cycling, equestrian, fencing, football, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, weightlifting, handball, hockey, judo, wrestling, swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, water polo, modern pentathlon, softball, taekwondo, tennis, table tennis, shooting, archery, triathlon, sailing, volleyball and beach volleyball.


The three disciplines of cycling are embodied in one icon.


The images, which have been approved by the 28 International Federations and by the International Olympic Committee, will be widely used during the Games, appearing on signage, adverts, souvenirs, official publications, TV images and many other forms of visual communication.


Distinguishing characteristics


"There are two distinguishing features concerning the pictograms, the first one is that they strongly display traditional Chinese culture," said Zhang Ming, vice director of the Culture and Ceremonies Department of BOCOG.


"The other one is that they are much different from those in the previous Games."


According to Zhang, seal characters were used by several other candidates.


"Since we invited several professional organizations to hand in original designs, all the proposals were of high level," said Zhang. "Some of them were based on paper-cuttings, woodcarving and inscriptions on bronze, all of which carried the idea of traditional Chinese culture.


"Seal characters won unanimous approval at last because they not only feature the particular movement and dynamism of each sport, but are also easy to recognize, remember and use."


Next: Overall Olympic image


Together with the Beijing 2008 Olympic emblems -- Chinese Seal, Dancing Beijing, and the Olympic mascots -- Five Friendlies -- the Olympic pictograms are also an important component of the Olympic image and look.


As revealed by Zhang, the creation of the collective Olympic image and look will start from next year.


"An image system will combine all these single components together to display an overall Olympic look during the 2008 Games," said Zhang. "After all the key components are worked out, we will gradually start to decorate all the venues, including all the competition venues, training venues, airport, hotels and the media centre, from the beginning of next year."


According to Zhang, design for all the other important components, such as the torch, uniforms, tickets and accreditation cards, are undergoing now.


"We will also use them to decorate the whole city before the 2008 Games," Zhang added.


(China Daily September 1, 2006)


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