VANCOUVER (CP) - It's a symbol with deep roots in the Inuit culture, a directional marker that signifies safety, hope and friendship.
Organizers of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games hope their choice of a stylized inukshuk as their Olympic logo speaks to all Canadians while welcoming the world.
(Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC))
The emblem called Ilanaaq (el la nawk), the Inuit word for friend, has been praised by many people since being unveiled during a live television broadcast from GM Place Saturday night but others have been left scratching their heads.
The logo was designed by Vancouver graphic designers Elena Rivera MacGregor and Gonzalo Alatorre. It was chosen by a panel of nine judges from over 1,600 submissions.
It features five stone-like formations in green, two blues, red and yellow. Two pillars form legs, there's a body, an arm-like horizontal shape, then a head like an eagle. The form stands over the five Olympic rings.
The different colours represent different regions of the country.
The green and blues depict coastal forests, mountain ranges and islands. The red is for Canada's Maple Leaf and the yellow for the brilliant sunrises.
"This mark and this emblem is powerful and we believe it represents B.C. as well as it does Newfoundland as well as it does the north of Canada," said John Furlong, chief executive officer for the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee (VANOC).
"It will connect with everybody because it speaks to a spirit, it speaks to what's inside us.
"It's an emblem when you see it once, you'll never forget it."
Dan Mason, who along with his family was part of the small crowd at GM Place, immediately liked the logo.
"The colours are really warm and welcoming and the inukshuk is a welcoming symbol," said Mason. "It's a great symbol of our north and a great symbol of our Olympics in 2010."
Others weren't so sure.
"I don't like it," said Carla Pavan. "It looks like a primary school design."
Like many people, Pavan questioned what in the logo represents Vancouver or winter sports.
"When I think of Vancouver I think of the sea and water and mountains," she said. "This seems a little primary."
Of the 20 callers to a popular Vancouver sports show on CKNW radio over half panned the design.
Some said the emblem looks like Gumbi or Fred Flintstone. Many were left disappointed or said the symbolism was a reach.
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said the design looked like a hockey goaltender, but that was good because a goalie was protective, strong and fair.
Scott Cumming said the logo grows on you.
"When we first saw it, it was 'what the heck is that,"' said Cumming, who was wearing a Team Canada hockey sweater.
"It was like a bunch of Leggo blocks stacked up. But when they explained it to us it was really cool. It has its arms wide open to accept the rest of the world. As soon as Dr. Rogge said it looked like a little kid in goalie gear I thought it was pretty cool."
Rivera MacGregor said one of the challenges was finding a symbol that all Canadians could embrace.
"There were only so many things that could represent the entire country," she said. "We researched it and we concluded the inukshuk was in fact one character that could pretty much tell the whole story. The value of the style and components of it, the colours, that's what took it over the top."
Furlong said people shouldn't be concerned the design does not contain a Maple Leaf.
"It was time for us to go on and find a new mark," he said. "We believe this mark will speak to the humanity of the country, the people, the culture the values we have."
Paul Okalik, premier of the territory of Nunavut, said using the inukshuk is special for his people.
"We don't have any Maple Leafs from where I come from," said Okalik.
"This is very special. It shows a strength. Our inukshuk has been around a very long time. To be shown off to the rest of the world is very special for us."
For the next five years the emblem will be symbol of the Vancouver Games, reaching across languages and cultures. It will be an image splashed on signs, embroidered on clothes, etched on pins and prominently displayed on advertisements around the world.
"I think it is one of the warmest, most welcoming, friendliest emblems seen in the history of the Olympic Games," said Timo Lumme, the IOC's director of television and marketing services, who attended the ceremony.
The competition to design the 2010 logo was launched last June.
The winning emblem was chosen by an international panel of judges which included artists, design experts, and even a Disney executive. Rivera MacGregor receives a $25,000 prize and two tickets to the 2010 Olympic Games opening ceremony.