Go for the Gold!

While the athletes, their coaches and support staff, the media, sponsors and spectators amassed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for the XXI Olympic Winter Games Feb. 12-28, the graphic arts industry had been preparing for the past four years. Print is an essential ingredient to promoting, guiding and recording the Games for posterity. And many printers produced souvenir books, maps, tourism pamphlets, commemorative stamps, posters, tickets, signage, car and bus wraps and sponsor-related packaging.

Three years ago, the 2010 Commerce Centre opened its offices in Vancouver’s central business district to inform, educate and connect businesses and communities to economic opportunities created by the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. A number of printers were awarded contracts to supply graphics and printing; these include Ampco Graphix, which wrapped the city’s ferries in giant-sized decals to promote the 2010 Olympic Games; Banner Images, which produced the event banners; PacBlue Digital Imaging, which was selected to produce printed materials, including banners, posters and booklets; and SuperGraphics USA, which was selected for banners and bus wraps.

Realizing the benefit the Games could bring to the graphic arts industry, especially as it reeled through an economic slow-down, the British Columbia Printing & Imaging Association organized a number of print specific seminars to help printers win contracts for the Games. In January 2009, the association held a seminar in conjunction with the Royal Bank of Canada. “We got a very good turnout and participation,” said Marilynn Knoch, executive director of BCPIA. “We provided pointers on how to bid for jobs and how to fill out request-for-proposal forms. We filled the room each time we gave a seminar.”

First Impressions

Among the printers seeking work from VANOC, the official Olympic organization responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games in 2010, was PacBlue Printing in Vancouver. To prepare for the bidding process, Greg Downes, account manager for the 60-year-old printing company, attended a number of the 2010 Commerce Centre’s Business Opportunities workshops. He also registered the company with the Commerce Centre’s Business Network to learn about upcoming contracts.

“PacBlue was selected among nine printers to supply small-format printing to VANOC. We did receive a number of jobs leading up to the Games and became known for our quick turn-around times.” said Downes. “As the Games got closer we received a lot of indirect print work related to the Games, from customers wanting large-format banners or signage to attract attention to their products.” Downes also said that PacBlue’s reprographic division benefited from the construction industry’s requirement for blueprints. Multiple sets of drawings were required to construct the various Olympic venue sites.

Early Favorites

Another printer that started early was Metropolitan Fine Printers, a Vancouver-based print specialist in high-end commercial work. Eleven years ago the company was approached by Tourism Vancouver to print business cards and brochures for the agency to use in its bid to win the Olympics for Vancouver. “They wanted us to print these items for free,” said Bob Faulkner, Metropolitan’s vice president of sales and marketing. “In the end, we did all the work they needed on the bids and it’s become very good for us. We’re able to produce the beauty of Vancouver, and that helps to showcase our high-quality printing.”

While Metropolitan was in the door very early, the print work came much later than predicted. “By last August, we were getting only a fraction of what we thought we would be producing,” said Faulkner. “September came and there still wasn’t much volume. By October, the floodgates had opened. Everyone left it till the end but that’s the nature of the printing business today.”

One of Metropolitan’s strong points was its international reputation as a printing pioneer, as well as its workmanship. The firm’s nine- and 10-color manroland 40-inch presses equipped with Eagle Eye technology and its unique MET UV, a combination of special inks and coatings that offers previously unattainable clarity, color vibrancy and range of finishes, put Metropolitan high on the bid list. The firm won contracts from major sponsors like Nike, VISA, Coca-Cola and Samsung, as well as the American Olympic Committee. Its UV technology helped to increase the firm’s demand because of the high quality and fast drying times, as well as the positive environmental aspect VANOC was emphasizing.

“The Olympics came at a critical time,” said Faulkner. “They are like a breath of fresh air. We’ve seen an erosion of volume, especially work for the real estate business. When real estate disappeared, VANOC picked up the slack. We’re hopeful post-Olympics that the economy will recover.”

A Legacy of Excellence

Bond Reproductions, an 18-year-old general commercial printer located in Vancouver, also fared very well with the Olympics. The company responded to a qualification bid several years ago and was short-listed by VANOC as a commercial sheetfed and digital printer for various organizations that needed print. Since then, the firm has been working closely with 2010 Legacy organizations and Olympic Broadcasting.

“It was very steady work leading up to the Olympics,” said Jim Hodge, Bond’s COO, “and we’re hoping to keep the momentum going. The 2010 Legacy work began two years before the Olympics and should continue well after the Games are over. We’ve been printing posters, rack cards, books and brochures. We’re also busy printing for our local clientele who have international customers involved in the Olympics in some capacity.” Bond is equipped with several half-size Heidelberg sheetfed presses as well as two digital iGen Xerox machines.

Making the Cut

Some printers were sought after by VANOC to produce official Olympic work. One such firm was Canadian Art Prints (CAP), an international art publishing company that produces fine art posters, limited editions and art cards. The company was approached to produce one of the most coveted collector’s items: the Vancouver 2010 official poster. Cropped within the shape of a maple leaf and for the first time in history, both the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games official posters are represented in a unified manner; when displayed together, the two halves of the maple leaf join to create a whole. The “Look of the Games” graphic elements in the poster were created by members of VANOC’s design team, while designer Ben Hulse used paint and mixed media to create the concept.

“VANOC approached us because we have the reputation and expertise to do this type of limited edition work,” said Paul Batts, production and prepress manager at CAP. “The 18x27-inch poster is printed using our giclee method where we use an inkjet printer to produce higher color fidelity than traditional offset printing. The colors on this Olympic poster are very vibrant, with deep blues and greens. We’re able to capture the texture of the original and each limited edition print is embossed. VANOC determined that we would only print a limited run of 2,010 posters, underscoring the year of the Games.”

In addition to the limited edition posters, CAP was asked to produce 24 sports posters as well, and art cards that can be used as greeting cards or framed. CAP worked closely with another local printer, Hemlock Printers, which produced a longer-run four-color offset lithography version on 100-lb., FSC-certified paper. “We worked closely with Hemlock to ensure both posters had continuity between them,” said Batts. “Most of our limited edition posters are being sold at a department store downtown. We have a representative on hand to explain how the poster was printed.”

Two Canadian book publishers were chosen as licensees. John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd. in Toronto published an edition of its Frommer’s travel guide series—”Frommer’s Vancouver” and “Whistler Day By Day”. The company also published several volumes designed to capture iconic elements of the 2010 Winter Games: “With Glowing Hearts/Des plus brillants exploits: The Official Commemorative Book of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games”; “A Path of Northern Lights,” commemorative pictorial books chronicling the story of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays; and “O Siyam: Celebrating Aboriginal Art through the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.” Glacier Media Inc., based in Vancouver, published the “Vancouver 2010 Official Souvenir Program.” Designed to be a keepsake, the souvenir program was a pre-Games publication that provided insight for fans and spectators into the Olympic and Paralympic sports, the venues and the host region. The 148-page book was printed by Burnaby, British Columbia-based Hemlock Printers Ltd. on sheetfed presses. It was perfect bound with a thick cover stock. The print run was 300,000, and the book was sold at Olympic stores and retailers across Canada in English and French.

“We provided most of the content, and we worked with VANOC’s creative department and used much of their graphic template,” said Paul Holden, publisher of BIV Custom Publishing, a division of Glacier Media. “Our managing editor oversaw the content and assigned contributors where appropriate. VANOC was actively involved in all stages of the publishing process and the book was ultimately approved by them.”

Jobs of Olympic Proportions

Many other printers who produce signs, banners and car and bus wraps captured work for the Olympics. Wholesale Sign Solutions, a Washington-based digital printer, was installing five-foot panels at the Heineken House and Dutch pavilion in the Olympic Village less than a week before the Games began. The pressure-sensitive vinyl panels, which he produced on the company’s Mimaki JV3 and JV5 wide-format solvent-based inkjet printer were being used as interior temporary walls for retail and bar areas.

“The color was very critical,” said Brad Taylor, Wholesale’s president. “We had to meet the specifications for the Heineken green and red logo and the Dutch orange shades.” Taylor said the project began with his firm working 20-hour days and overtime to print and ship the panels. “They pulled the trigger three weeks [before the installation] and gave us the job,” he said. “But in this economy we are so blessed to get it. Last year our sales dipped 30 percent, and this project alone will bring us back to even.”

Monster Media Inc., a large- and grand-format digital printing company based in Riverside, Calif., supported one of its clients by producing a vehicle wrap tied into the Olympics. The customer, sunglass and athletic eye-wear manufacturer Oakley, was taking its show hauler and trailer to Vancouver for the Games. Monster Media wrapped the vehicles with Olympic images, which were printed with its new synthetic ink-based HP Designjet L65500 printer. All of the vibrant colors were produced in the Olympic spectrum along with national flags spread over the wrap.

Sheer size and logistics were the two challenges being faced by Ampco Grafix, a full-service graphic printing and design support facility with large-format digital printing capabilities, when it learned it would be wrapping three new ferries owned by B.C. Ferries. It took 10 days and 370 hours of work to print the wrapping for each ferry—40,500 square feet of adhesive vinyl printed on 992 individual panels. Each panel had to be numbered and matched exactly with the others so the graphics would look seamless on the ferries. The graphics were about eight metres tall and 130 metres long and nearly covered both sides of the vessel. “It was a huge job—the largest commercial marine application of vinyl graphics in the world,” said Dann Konkin, president of Ampco. “No one has ever put graphics on something this size.” Ampco also produced graphics to wrap two Rocky Mountaineer trains, which served as public transit alternative between Vancouver and Whistler during the Games.

Other types of printing were generated for the Games as well. For example, Coca-Cola produced collectible cans inspired by popular Winter Games sports. And Canada Post Corp., an official supplier of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and Paralympics, issued a set of five domestic postage stamps on the theme “Sports of the 2010 Winter Games.”