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Giant Olympics signs to plaster downtown skyscrapers

VANCOUVER - Expect to see gigantic Games-related signs on the sides of skyscrapers starting as early as October.

“At the most, the signs could be as large as a full face of a building,” general manager of Olympic and Paralympic operations Paul Henderson told the Tyee.

Last week, city council passed a bylaw package allowing owners to begin installing large-scale celebratory signage Oct. 1. The special technology used to cover a building face relies on warm, dry temperatures, weather not found in Vancouver’s winter months.

Only 10 to 15 downtown towers will be plastered with images greater than 10 per cent of their surface area, but thousands of banners and smaller signs will cover the city, Henderson said.

“Definitely we expect the images to build excitement,” he said.

What constitutes “celebratory” is open to interpretation. It could include images of skiers shooting down mountainous slopes or speed skaters rounding a curve – anything that creates enthusiasm for the Games. But it doesn’t mean free advertising.

Any sign design has to be vetted by the city’s permit office, which is tasked with limiting commercial content. Companies can put their brand on the signage, but only if they’re the primary occupier of a building, and even then they’ll face size restrictions.

Still, it means official Olympics sponsor RBC could plaster its downtown tower with the company logo, as long it doesn’t exceed 20 square metres.

Los Angeles pioneered the idea of a unified Olympics “look” at its 1984 Summer Olympics. Organizers covered 86 kilometres of chainlink fence in Games-branded murals, creating a uniform image broadcast around the world.

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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