olympic bouquet  2 2010 Vancouvor When the winners are given their medals at the Olympic Games, do you look at the bouquets? I do. Every medallist gets one and this year at the winter games about 1800 bouquets will be given out. Since there are more participants in summer games, the number goes up, probably to about 6,000 in 2012. That adds up to a lot of flowers and foliage. Have you ever wondered what goes into choosing, growing, and transporting all those flowers and foliage and then designing, making and delivering the bouquets? Read on…

The custom of giving a bouquet to medallists goes back to ancient Greek times when wreaths made of olive leaves were presented to winners.

Epiktetos painter 520-510 BC
Epiktetos painter 520-510 BC

Ancient Greek and Roman women carried bouquets of garlic, herbs, and spices to ward off evil spirits and by Victorian times, flowers had replaced the herbs and were used to convey special messages from sender to recipient. Today, the Olympic Games carries on the tradition of bouquets by carefully selecting flowers and foliage to enhance the triumphal moment of the winners.

The 1800 bouquets for the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver are the result of a long and arduous selection process by the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC). They contain yellow-green spider mums, purple-green hypericum berries, leather leaf fern, loops of monkey grass, aspidistra leaves, and a royal blue ribbon tied around the handle that is wrapped with recycled paper. All the bouquets were made by 22 “marginalized women” who have been trained in floristry for the occasion. Everything about the bouquets from design, to flower selection, and delivery was carefully planned.

The Committee sought bouquets that reflected their concern for:

1. Safety. Pollen and fragrance may cause allergic reactions and must be considered in the selection of plant material. Since some medallists will throw their bouquets to admirers, the bouquets can not include material that might poke out an eye or otherwise hurt someone.
2. Longevity and Durability. Plant material must be able to hold up well to heavy handling for at least a day without a source of water since bouquets will be subjected to inspections and made a day ahead of presentation.
3. Environmental Impact: Organically grown sustainable plant material, minimal and biodegradable-recyclable packing material, fuel efficient, low-emission delivery vehicles, and short transportation distances are preferred.
4. Indigenous Plant Material. Use of plants that represent the region and reflect the color palette of the Games. Unfortunately very little useful bouquet material grows in B.C. or Canada in February so a compromise was reached; the green spider mum are greenhouse grown in B.C. but the berries and foliage are supplied by Ecuador growers because no local grower could provide the foliage in sufficient quantity in February.
5. Employment: Creation of employment opportunities for people who might not otherwise benefit from the Games. The winning bid was won by a partnership between two florists over the age of 65 with over 100 years of combined experience. They trained and used 22 marginalized women who worked in groups with a group leader to create the bouquets. The marginalized women may be recovering from addiction, leaving prison or the sex trade, been victims of violence, or be trying to learn floristry as a career but all wanted to be involved.

The result of their efforts has been splendid! This was certainly a win-win situation with all benefiting, including the floral workers who made the bouquets, the environment, and the Olympic winners who take home a cherished item to remind them of their special day.

If you would like to learn more about Olympic bouquets see my post on Olympic Bouquets of the Past.

By Karen

23 thoughts on “The Story of the Olympic Bouquet, Vancouver, 2010”
    1. Not to everyone’s taste but it is simple, elegant, modern, and represents the greenness of Vancouver. The designers originally had a more traditional design in mind and submitted 23 bouquets before the VANOC chose this one. Different strokes…

  1. I agree with Karen in that there is a simple elegance about the bouquet. I originally was not impressed with the bouquet either but it grew on me. There is a humbleness about the bouquet that I appreciate. I find that it reflects one of the national characteristics that I appreciate most: humility. It is muted, easily overlooked but still memorable, beautiful and in keeping with the sense of humility that has been pervasive throughout the games.

    1. Take a look at some of the bouquets from past Olympic Games (“Olympic Bouqets of the Past” posted 02/24/10 on Karen’s Garden Tips) and see if you think the bouquets reflect national characteristics. I could never have matched them up!

  2. Incredible. After reading all that the bouquets reflect I think they are amazing. Being a native of the Pacific Northwest I am impressed with so much life, energy and passion in a small bouquet of flowers. It sends quite a message about the artists who are making them.

    1. Gretchen,
      I think the Vancouver florist did a wonderful job of capturing something unique about the area in a bouquet but you are a better judge than I am since you live near the area. thanks for your comment.

  3. I love the green color – it is a sign of hope that spring is right around the corner. I also applaud the women who trained the 22 women making the bouquets. What a gift they have given these women: a skill, a memory worth keeping and sharing. For many of them this maybe one of a few that they will cherish.

    1. I, too, love the green color especially the green spider mums; and was also impressed by the work force used. The florist who trained and organized the workers had worked with women in prison before opening classes for “marginalized women” in the basement of her shop so she has a real dedication to this kind of work. She is 67 years old and still going strong, a model for seniors too.

  4. I think they are so drab, really ugly at least from a TV viewers perspective. I also thought the athletes looked at them with a yuck.

  5. I asked about these on twitter since I had no idea what they were. I am glad I read about them because on television they really don’t look very well. Someone should have thought about that when they were made up. The berries should have been a different color to offset the mums, imo.
    Thanks for the explaination!

    1. Karen,
      It is surprising to me too that someone did not consider the TV aspect of the bouquets since the bottom view and side view were considered. On the other hand, do we really want TV to dictate what happens at the Olympics? We are ready victims of the commercial side of things at the Olympics because of TV so we need to be cautious. I would love to know the opinion of the athletes or other people who say the bouquets first hand.

  6. Sorry read the story and they are still uglier than sin ~ carnations white with a single red rose or multi carnation colors reprensenting each of the countries that participated in the Olympics would have been still sublte yet also shown the beauty of BC…Just my opinion but still looks like green cauliflower to me….Being born and raised in Victoria I was ashamed of what we had chosen. Carnations met all of the criteria that was used above..


    1. Brenda,
      Your suggestion of carnations would have been very pretty too but quite a few people would find carnations too common-place. These bouquets are quite unique even if everyone does not like them.


    1. Roman
      Actually, broccoli can be quite beautiful used in a flower arrangement and I have seen some stunning fall arrangements that include it.

  7. I too, thought they looked like broccoli ( on the TV) it would be interesting to get a winners view of how they liked them. The guys might have thought they were OK, I thought they might have been herbs and created by the BC native Indians.

    1. Pat,
      Broccoli would have been good; so would herbs. Perhaps the English will pursue the idea of potted plants for winners and we will be treated to a whole new look.


  8. Re: 2010 Olympic Green Broccoli Bouquets.From a distance they look like la lettuce with a cabbage in the center…seemingly these bouquets were the least dangerous choice. Some of the other prototypes had plants/flowers that may be allergenic or dangerous when thrown into the audience. Here was my facebook posting!

    Vancouver Olympic committee member”This one is beautiful,this one smells fantastic,this one looks artistic….BUT THIS ONE looks like a combination of vegetables! I have never heard of a killer vegetable bouquet so it would be safest”

    2nd VANOC “But it is ugly and has no smell and the athletes will just throw them away?!”

    1st VANOC “Perfect then the spectators will catch and keep them! Win Win situation”

    3rd VANOC “Maybe we should put warning labels on them so people don’t think they are vegetables and eat them”

    1st VANOC “Don’t be stupid Canadian’s know the difference between a vegetable and foliage!”
    A woman in Idaho was hospitalized after steaming and eating her Olympic bouquet. There is speculation Mrs. Idaho will proceed with legal actions against the Athlete who gave her the bouquet and the VANOC for not providing a warning label.
    Mrs. Idaho “Them officials kept going on and on bout how damn near everything was made from natural or recycled thangs”
    “the guy side me said I waz lucky cause I caught the vegetable thangy and if I put it in my fridge it would last for months and I could gets me a lot of money if I done sold it”
    “But I gots hungry…howz I suppost to know it aint for eating, looks like some kinda lettuce with cabbage and broccoli in the middle…shoulda had a warning on it not to eats it”
    “I dun miss a lot of work at my fries shop, we make the best damn fries at our truck stop… them Canadians cost me a bucket load”
    Ok karen and other Olympic Bouquet lovers don’t get in too much of a tizzy I’m just a having a lark LOL

  9. Your suggestion for broccoli are very beautiful in flower arrangement. The flower selection and bouquet are commonly design in the planned way……… This is also helpful for all the enviornment and olympic winners to remind the special day……..

    1. Good point. I like something a little different in my bouquets and using vegetables can be a great way to create something unique especially in winter when the supply of flowers can be limiting.


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