The Vancouver 2010 emblem is dubbed Ilanaaq—"friend" in an Inuit language—and is an "eternal expression of the hospitality of a nation that warmly welcomes the people of the world with open arms every day," according to the Vancouver 2010 Web site.
But Ilanaaq has generated controversy among some First Nations—Canada's term for non-Inuit American Indian groups. The groups feel the symbol doesn't reflect the native art and culture of the Vancouver region and the rest of British Columbia, such as totem poles. (See pictures of totem poles made for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.)
Photograph by Jeff Vinnick, Reuters
Vancouver 2010 Inukshuk
An inukshuk, a Canadian Inuit symbol used as an overland navigation tool in the Arctic, is seen towering over Vancouver's English Bay.
The Vancouver 2010 emblem, named Ilanaaq, was chosen by an international judging panel from more than 1,600 entries from every region of Canada.
But some First Nations indigenous leaders have said the symbol lacks influence from native cultures of the Vancouver region, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
"The First Nations community at large is disappointed with the selection," Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, told the CBC in 2005. "The decision-makers have decided not to reflect the First Nations and the Pacific region in the design of the logo.
"I can't help but notice the remarkable resemblance it has to Pac-Man," Phillip added.
Phillip, who is boycotting what he called the "Disneyesque" opening ceremony, also told NPR in February 2010 that the Vancouver 2010 games are taking place on land that rightfully belongs to indigenous people.
Photograph by David Elton, Flickr Collection, Getty Images
Hudson Bay Inukshuk
In addition to guiding travelers in the remote Arctic, inukshuk sculptures also serve to welcome visitors at the entrances of native villages, campsites, and bays (pictured, an inukshuk on the coast of Hudson Bay in Churchill, Manitoba).
The symbol in the Vancouver 2010 emblem is so well known in Inuit culture that it's on the flag of the largely Inuit territory of Nunavut—a self-governing region established in 1999.
Photograph by Taylor S. Kennedy, National Geographic Stock
Inukshuk are traditionally built without heads, legs, and arms, such as this marker (seen in 2007) overlooking the village of Pangnirtung in the heavily Inuit territory of Nunavut, Canada (see map.)
The humanoid Vancouver 2010 symbol is technically an inunguat—"imitation of man"—former Nunavut commissioner Peter Irniq told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2005.
Ilanaaq shouldn't be called an inukshuk, Irniq told the CBC, adding that the Olympic Committee failed to consult with Nunavut elders before choosing Ilanaaq's design.
Over the past hundred years, many non-Inuit have built inukshuk in human shapes, said Irniq, who has built traditional inukshuk throughout Canada and the United States.
Photograph by Hugo Miller, Bloomberg, Getty Images
More Fitting Vancouver 2010 Emblem?
A traditional totem pole created by Haisla people stands tall in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. Some Vancouver-area indigenous leaders have suggested a totem pole might have made a better Vancouver 2010 emblem, since the art form is native to British Columbia.
The totemic figures of Canada's Pacific-coast native cultures usually represent ancestors or supernatural beings.
Totem poles come in several varieties and can serve as doorways to houses, posts that support roof beams, or memorial poles to honor deceased chiefs, according to the University of Washington Web site.
Photograph by Pete Ryan, National Geographic Stock
Vancouver 2010 Greeting
A statue of Ilanaaq stands at the entrance of the Whistler Blackcomb ski village—site of some Vancouver 2010 competitions—on February 6, 2010.
The five-piece logo's colors (seen in the first photo) are meant to symbolize all of Canada, with green and blue for coastal forests, mountain ranges, and islands; red for maple leaves; and yellow for the sunrise.