How To Design A Smarter Olympics Bid

How To Design A Smarter Olympics Bid

The Olympic Games are often a bittersweet milestone for a city, filled with economic and political ups and downs. But it would appear that Oslo’s 2022 aspirations are set for success in the hands of Norwegian design firm Snøhetta, which has executed one of the most elegant Olympic bids in history.

The fact that Snøhetta was chosen to design the bid is certainly no surprise; the Norwegian firm is globally renowned for its work (which you’ll be able to find in Times Square soon). But the decision to choose Snøhetta was one of the most intelligent moves by Oslo’s committee because it keeps all the design elements of the bid under one roof. Snøhetta’s masterful grasp of graphic design, architecture, and urban planning allow the firm to create an integrated proposal that considers the holistic impact of the games on the city.

The pitch and process behind the bid are now public after it was presented to the International Olympic Committee during the Sochi games, and it includes three major concepts that demonstrate the smart thinking behind Oslo’s strategy. Let’s take a look.

A logo-less logo

One of the biggest challenges for any Olympic bid is buy-in — getting the residents to agree that hosting a gargantuan city-wide event is in their best interest. To introduce the concept in a cohesive but non-confrontational way, Snøhetta went with what they’re calling a “logo-less” identity — a sparse, colourful set of graphics that conveys openness.

The letterforms of O-S-L-O and 2-0-2-2 create just about the most perfect geometry ever, allowing the identity to be composed with a few simple shapes. The colours, although inspired by the bold Olympic rings, are represented in a more muted Nordic palette that stays true to the culture’s personality.

The sparse nature of the logo and use of negative space (you might even see it as unfinished) works to the committee’s advantage. People would recognise and remember the bid when it was put to vote in a city referendum, but it wouldn’t feel like the games were already packaged and produced without their input. Not all Norwegians seem convinced the games are good for the city, however, criticising it as too expensive and potentially corrupt.

“Games in the City”

We hear all too often about the crazy development frenzy that accompanies the Olympic Games, with cities erecting expensive stadiums at far-flung venues (that sometimes require investing in massive infrastructure just to get people there). Oslo’s approach is all about “Games in the City” — presenting the events within the context of the existing urban environment, with a sustainable focus.

“Compact and urban” is the language used on the website, and this carries over to the architectural renderings for proposed new construction. Each of the new venues are part of a larger urban development vision for the city’s center. Snøhetta includes architectural elements and signage that don’t look like they were slapped over the existing urban design, rather they feel integrated into the fabric of Oslo.

Adding to the attention to city-wide impact — again, this is the beauty of the one-stop design shop — Snøhetta also designed the feasibility study for the games. So the designers are proposing new development while looking closely at planning and environmental constraints that the city might face.

In addition, all the venues will be located within a six-mile radius, requiring minimal transportation solutions — which is incredibly impressive for any host city in the history of the Olympics.

Friendly winter sports

If you think of the ideal place to celebrate cold-weather sports, it probably looks a lot like the steep, snowy fjords of Norway. This geographical strength definitely gives Oslo an advantage — it’s well-known for its propensity for winter activities (compared to most of us who couldn’t locate Sochi on a map until they won their bid).

Adding to that vibe, the designers designers commissioned gorgeous aerial photography of snow-covered landscapes that make Norway look like an alluring destination. But there’s a playful element to the imagery as well, even an torch-bearing, Olympic-looking figure carved onto a hillside.

Will Oslo’s clean, well-designed bid help it claim victory? The other cities in the running are Kraków, Poland; Almaty, Khazakstan; Lviv, Ukraine; and Beijing, China (the outdoor snow events would be held in Zhangjiakou). Stockholm — perhaps the only city that could have given Oslo a run for its money — dropped out earlier this year.

The winner won’t be announced until July 2015, but this plan is solid. If public opinion backs the games as well, I’m thinking we’ll all be heading to Oslo in 2022. [Snøhetta, Oslo2022]