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The Art of Olympic Graphics

Service providers print the backdrop to the games


Feb. 2002 — The Olympics are one of the few truly global events, that rare opportunity when people from all nations put aside differences for a short period of time and everyone plays nice. While the Games sometimes fall short of that Olympic ideal, they nonetheless attract a monumental amount of interest and huge television audiences in almost every country around the globe.

Thus the Games also present a uniquely effective opportunity for multinational companies to promote their brands and products. And where there is television and advertising, there are a lot of graphic arts applications.

The Winter Olympiad this month in Salt Lake City is no exception. For these Games, Xerox Corp., an official worldwide sponsor, produced a seven-story banner, which will hang on the side of Hilton Salt Lake City Center until the conclusion of the 2002 Games. The banner uses headshots of nearly 17,000 Xerox employees in a mosaic image promoting unity.

The banner was output on 28 panels printed by a Xerox ColorgrafX X2 electrostatic wide-format printer. The image was printed on paper with dye-sublimation ink and transferred to polyester fabric using heat and pressure to sublimate the image into the fabric. The 28 panels were sewn together to complete the banner.

Of course, international sponsors like Xerox and Kodak were not the only graphic arts companies to participate in the Salt Lake Games. Contracts for display graphics that form the backdrop to many competition venues went to print service providers in Salt Lake City and elsewhere around the country. Digital Output magazine caught up with a few of these lucky companies in the busy weeks leading up to the Opening Ceremony.

Paragon Press of Salt Lake City won a great contract from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC), a quasi-governmental agency set up to run the Games. As part of SLOC’s effort to recruit thousands of Utah residents to work as volunteers during the big event, Paragon printed 30,000 posters with the slogan “3 billion television viewers, 3,400 athletes, 80 countries, 1 chance of a lifetime. Volunteer for the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.” Paragon, which has served Salt Lake since the 1920s, also printed 25,000 copies of a poster (above) sent to all elementary, middle and high schools in Utah. With a theme of “One School, One County,” the poster sported the slogan “Celebrating Cultures.”

Paragon Press, which has grown to employ 70 full-time and 30 part-time workers over the years, runs several 40-inch sheetfed presses, including a one-color Heidelberg, a two-color Komori, and two six-color Mitsubishi presses, one with aqueous coater, chiller unit and extended delivery.

Tattoo Manufacturing Inc. of Tucson, Arizona prints the official temporary tattoos of the Games. Owner Joyce Sinclair was inspired to enter this unusual end of the printing business 12 years ago while watching a man on a California beach selling temporary tattoos. She started by outsourcing print jobs and eventually grew large enough to produce its unique product line in-house. According to CEO Jerry Nathanson, Tattoo Manufacturing now accounts for more than 65 percent of the domestic market and more than 50 percent of the world market.

The Olympic tattoo series includes six variety packs with four designs each. Those designs include the flags of participating countries, mascots, medals and the Olympic flame. Printed using FDA-approved, non-toxic oil-based inks, the tattoos are run on standard presses using a CMYK process plus a fifth ink, white, for light-colored or white elements in the tattoo designs.

Temporary tattoos can last from one day to about a week, depending on water and chemical exposure. They are resistant to most soaps and are removed using tape or mineral oil.

Tattoo Manufacturing is also producing a children’s book called “The Olympic Winter Games” which features the three mascots, Powder, Copper and Coal, giving a tour of the Games. The book, which is part of the Tattootles children’s book line, includes two pages of temporary tattoos (top).

Both the tattoos and the book will be sold in the Olympic Superstore in Salt Lake City, as well as in stores around the country. The tattoo packs retail for $2.99 each, and the books, which come in two sizes, retail at $3 and $6 respectively.

Vision International, a national digital imaging company based in Salt Lake City, has used its Nur Blueboard superwide-format inkjet printer to produce many of the most visible graphics and banners commissioned by SLOC. Tim Fullmer founded Vision in 1993 with 10 employees and now has 115 workers in his Salt Lake headquarters and 10 sales offices around the country.

His crew is producing graphics that will hang from the bleachers of the outside venues, including the medals plaza, the ski jump, the luge run and Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held. Vision is also producing a banner that will hang in the Olympic Sports Park, some smaller banners that will hang at starting gates and finish lines and some of the other art for the indoor venues.

Borge B. Andersen & Associates is the exclusive photographic printer for the Kodak Hospitality Program at the Radisson Inn Park City. Company founder Borge B. Andersen was a full-time professional photographer in 1968 who could not find a color lab in Salt Lake City that delivered the quality film developing and prints he wanted. So, he started his own lab and, 35 years later, his company is in charge of Olympic graphics in the Radisson, from overnight production of large-format prints to table tents, placemats and window graphics. Borge-Andersen has installed a Durst Lambda 130 wide-format digital laser printer and Seal 5500 laminator for the overnight graphics, and a Noritsu QSS-2711 digital mini-lab for regular photographic prints.

The overnight graphics present an interesting challenge for the Borge-Andersen crew. These large-format prints will hang along the balcony in the hotel entryway above the front desk and will change periodically throughout the Games. Borge-Andersen photographers will shoot different events during each day and, overnight, produce new large-format prints for the display. For example, they will start with a welcoming graphic and will have a picture from the opening ceremonies on display the following morning. This capability will allow them to feature medal winners, extraordinary performances and surprising moments as they happen in the course of the events.

Precision Litho, a local commercial printer, was commissioned by the SLOC to complete several Olympic projects, including the course maps that will be used by athletes participating in the biathlon, that odd combination of cross country skiing and marksmanship. The maps, which include information in several different languages, are printed on Arjobex Polyart, a synthetic plastic paper with a clay coating that will not smudge or tear in the snow and rough terrain.

Precision Litho, founded by Stephen Gleason in April 1990, is among the largest sheetfed printers in what is known as the Intermountain region surrounding Salt Lake City. For the maps and other Olympic projects, Gleason’s employees used one of three 40-inch Heidelberg presses.

Nomad Worldwide, based in Jersey City, New Jersey is producing three-sided kiosks that will be sunk into 1,500-lb. concrete bases at the Olympic Village in Salt Lake City.

The structures were commissioned by Jeffery Burke Productions, a Salt Lake City PR firm, and designed by Nomad.

Each of the 15 towers, which will stand in various places throughout the Olympic Village, is made of aluminum and is interior lit. The graphics feature a blue background, with various logos and messages on each side, depending on where the structure stands.

The graphics are printed on 10 oz seamless flex vinyl on a Nur Blueboard HiQ+ wide-format inkjet printer. The lighting is being done by Light America, based in Los Angeles, CA.

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