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'Unique' heart represents volunteers in Beijing Olympics
29 September 2006

Beijing, China: What is the shape of a loving heart? Different people might quickly draw up the same image - the one hit by the Cupid's arrow. But Zhang Wu, a Chinese artist, had to spend nearly 100 days to think of his answer.

Zhang, 43, is the designer of the volunteer symbol of the Beijing Olympic Games. Aided by his design team, he is also one of the main creators of the Olympic emblem - Chinese Seal, Dancing Beijing - and two other symbols representing Olympics culture and ambiance.

"I have been studying different kinds of hearts everyday for three months," Zhang said, who routinely works 14 hours per day and runs a design firm in Beijing.

"I needed to discover the unique heart that belongs to the volunteers in the 2008 Games, which will not only include the universal spirit of dedication and participation, but will also reflect China's historical and cultural heritage, as well as the future of the country and its people," Zhang said while sorting through a heaping pile of differently shaped hearts in different colours.

At last, Zhang found his answer - two interweaved hearts drawn in traditional calligraphic art with the colour of classical Chinese red. His work was finally selected by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) from among hundreds of applications.

Two hearts together can reflect the interactions among people, and the calligraphic art best goes along with the seal art of the Olympic emblem, Zhang explained. The colour red, which is intensively used in the Olympic emblem, is supposed to endow the volunteer symbol with passion and vitality.

"Red is the colour of the Sun and the Holy Fire, representing rising up and new beginnings. It carries Chinese people's longing for luck and happiness, and their explanation of life," Zhang said.

Apart from the unique shape of heart, Zhang also added three human beings to the symbol, since he believes people are at the core of every Olympic emblem and symbol. The three figures are joining hands together and dancing in a joyously.

"At first, I only used one figure in the design but it seemed to be lacking something," Zhang recalled. "When I added two more figures in the design, it looked much better, since volunteers are a group and teamwork is critical to success."

"In my designs, humanity is a must," Zhang noted, citing the running human figure with arms outstretched in the Olympic emblem.

"Many foreign friends of mine were quite shocked when they saw the 'Dancing Beijing,' because they said they had never expected that China would place a single human being in such a high place," Zhang said. "I hope the world learns more about China and its people through the emblems and symbols."

Calligraphic art, Chinese red, humanity and joyfulness are the elements that link up all the designs that Zhang and his colleagues made for the Games. Fortunately, the works by his company - Armstrong International Visual Corporate Identity Co Ltd (AVIC) - have all been picked up by BOCOG.

Zhang revealed that he had also won the bid for the symbol of torch relay, which is expected to made public soon by BOCOG. "Before the official release of the torch relay symbol, it must remain a secret. But I can tell you that the mark of the torch relay certainly contains fire, and how to find a unique shape of fire was the toughest task - like finding a unique heart. Anyway, we have made it, and the torch relay symbol is so far the most satisfying secondary mark to me," Zhang said.

The volunteer, culture, environment and torch relay symbols form a complete system of secondary Olympics marks, and they are part of the overall image and look design of the big event.

"Our goal is to create a unique image that is rich in oriental wisdom and also demonstrates to the world the great appeal of the Olympics," said Zhang, who is a member of the BOCOG Olympic image and identity expert panel.

"We hope the designs convey a new feeling for the Olympic Games, the historic and humanistic spirit of Beijing and China, the theme of 'New Beijing, Great Olympics' and the concept of a green, scientific and cultured Olympiad."

Zhang also made annotations to the two other culture and environment secondary marks.

The design of the Cultural Festival Symbol shows a human being and a lantern dancing joyfully. Lanterns are used at every traditional Chinese festival. They symbolize reunion and other happy occasions, and capture the soul of traditional Chinese culture.

The symbol for the environment, which was created using a calligraphic art form, is composed of human and tree-like shapes. The logo consists of the crown of a tree and the shape of a human being, which are used to create the form of a large tree reaching the sky.

The image represents harmony and unity between human beings and nature. Just like swinging coloured strips that encircle and cross each other, the green lines form a luxuriant crown of a tree and recall flowers in full bloom, embodying the sustainable development of nature.