Image_Web_Olympic Torch_Rio

Photo: Disclosure/Olympic Comittee

The Olympic torch in its various incarnations remains the most symbolically rich matchstick ever created. Each Olympiad gets a bespoke design in homage to the host country and the games. Next year, Rio will host the summer games, and around 12,000 people will carry it through Brazil’s cities, villages, forests and beaches as a symbol of what that means for such a wildly diverse country.

At first blush, the 2016 torch couldn’t look more different from the perforated metal triangle of London’s 2012 torch and designed by England artists. Now, a Brazilian studio – Chelles & Hayashi Design, specializing in appliances and branding, designed it. It’s classically conical – two feet in length with a handle circumference of around two inches, making it easy for runners to grab. It is almost entirely white, save for a logo. With a satin aluminum finish, it looks almost clinical in its simplicity.

Then you open it. At the moment of the kiss—the handoff from one torch bearer to another—the runner will turn a knob to ignite the gas valve, which will simultaneously cause the top of the white cone to expand, revealing five ribbons of bright, metallic colors. These undulating bands resemble the layers of a parfait, each color tied to a Brazilian natural wonder. The bottom ring represents the dark Copacabana sidewalk, two blue ripples conjure the sea, a jagged green line brings to mind the mountain overlooking Rio, and the yellow at the top is a nod to the sun and the medals awarded to the best athletes of the games.

Gustavo Challes, a co-founder of the the studio, says the design process began with weeks of research into how best to encompass the spirit of the country. The team of eight people plastered images of Brazilian life – street cars, architecture, mountains, tapestries, the sea—to the wall of its studio and tried to figure out how they might incorporate it all without muddying the message. “When you look at it, you have to see the concepts and meanings of the symbol, but it also has to be effective as an icon,” Challes says.

*Source: Wired.Com / July 2015

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