Does Vancouver torch look like a joint?
May 20, 2009
The torch for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.HANDOUT PHOTO
VANCOUVER–All hail – or inhale – the 2010 Olympic Torch.
Or, as it's jokingly known around Vancouver, the Olympic Toke.
Composed of stainless steel, aluminum and sheet moulding, the torch was designed to evoke snow, ice, skiing and skating, but to many, the metre-long white torch looks suspiciously like a marijuana joint, especially when lit.
The observation has become so common in this city that it's hard to know who was the first to say, "Hey, doesn't that look like ..."
But the torch's resemblance to British Columbia's biggest cash crop was evident right away to Jodie Emery, editor of Cannabis Culture magazine.
"A lot of people come to Vancouver because it's marijuana-friendly, so I think people who already enjoy a joint themselves will feel a little more kinship to the Olympics," said Emery, who ran as a Green party candidate in the provincial election this month.
"I'm sure the organizers didn't intend for it to look like a joint, but that's what a lot of people are seeing."
The association between toking and the Olympics didn't begin with the torch, of course.
At the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, Whistler skier Ross Rebagliati won, then lost, the gold medal in snowboarding after testing positive for marijuana. The medal was returned after Rebagliati explained he had inhaled second-hand smoke. And Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps was photographed in February smoking pot from a bong.
Industrial designer Mark Busse said he doesn't see a joint so much as a tweezer or scalpel.
"Sure, it may look a little bit like a joint, but I can tell you that what they were going for was ergonomics, sleekness, modernity," he said.
Suzanne Reeves, the Vancouver organizing committee's director of communications for the Olympic torch relay, said she has taken the torch across the country and people's faces light up when they get the chance to hold it.
At Nathan Phillips Square a couple of weeks ago, Reeves said she had the torch in a bag when a cyclist went by and did a double-take when he saw what she had.
Reeves said what she sees when she looks at the torch is the edge of snow and an unfurling flag.
"It's quite magical. Most people's reactions are emotional," she said.
The torch will be carried by 12,000 people over 45,000 kilometres as it makes its journey across Canada.
Because the torch will travel through the winter months, it had to meet some tough technical requirements, including being able to withstand high winds, cold temperatures and different altitudes.
The torch officially is meant to resemble the lines left behind by skiers and skaters on snow and ice.
Any double – or doobie – entendres, officials say, are purely unintentional.