The Korean Canadian Who Designed the Olympic Podium

      February 18, 2010 09:36

      James Lee

      James Lee, a Korean-Canadian industrial designer who designed the mountain-shaped victory ceremony podiums and medal trays for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, said he wants more Korean athletes to stand on his podiums.

      "It would be wonderful if I could provide some inspiration for Korean athletes to achieve their goals," Lee said in a telephone interview with the Chosun Ilbo on Wednesday.

      Currently working as a freelancer, the Vancouver-born Lee got a phone call in April from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), which had seen some pictures of his work on a design blog, Coroflot.

      "I love working with wood, and I'm familiar with it because I once worked as a carpenter," Lee said. "I think this was important to the VANOC, which wanted a podium with a natural look and environment-friendly concept."

      For the next five months, Lee completely devoted himself to designing the podiums and medal trays. "I got a lot of inspiration from the natural landscape of Canada, which I've been exposed to all my life. Until the last Olympics, the podium was merely a box where athletes stood and received their medals. But I wanted to make unique ones, because I wanted the athletes to feel blessed and joyful on my podiums in what is perhaps the happiest and most glorious moment of their lives."

      After finishing the designs, he worked tirelessly up until the last minute to complete the works, including assembling and installing the podiums himself.

      Lee is a huge fan of Korean figure skating champ Kim Yu-na. "I'm anxiously waiting for the women's figure skating event [scheduled for Feb. 24 and 26, Korean time]. I'm really looking forward to it," he said.

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