The inukshuk at English Bay
People always come up with different interpretations for what inukshuks are. When I was in grade 4 studying the Inuit, I was taught two things about inukshuks: that they were traditionally built as place markers on the vast and barren tundra, and that they were somehow used to herd caribou. Despite their traditional uses, these human-like stone statues are widely recognized as symbols of Canada's Inuit culture.
In 2003 when Vancouver won the bid to host the 2010 winter Olympics, a contest was held to design the official logo. The winner's design was a colourful interpretation of an inukshuk, inspired by the one at English Bay.
The winning entry initially caused a huge controversy because people thought that the inukshuk design looked too amateurish. Others complained that it had absolutely nothing to do with Vancouver's identity, but instead, its link to the Arctic continued to persist the cold and snowy Canadian stereotype. I think there was a 90% disapproval rating for the inukshuk design, but it was chosen anyway and was first shown at the 2006 Torino Olympics during the closing ceremonies. Despite the initial public disapproval, I think Canadians have warmed up it (no pun intended). I know I have!
This past summer when I visited Whistler, I took the gondola up to the top of the mountain. As we neared the top, I noticed that a new inukshuk had been built, obviously a replica of the logo. Although inukshuks aren't from this part of Canada, that inukshuk at the peak of Whistler seemed appropriately monumental, greeting visitors in anticipation of the upcoming 2010 Olympics. All I know is that one day in the not-too-distant future, I'll be watching that very inukshuk and the mountainous panorama behind it on TV.
The inukshuk on top of Whistler