PARIS — A year out from the first whistle, the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics are settling into the starting blocks.
The official Olympic and Paralympic torch design was revealed Tuesday, with an inventive new shape from French designer Mathieu Lehanneur.
The unveiling of the champagne-colored torch came just a day after LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton officially announced its sponsorship of the games.
Lehanneur’s unique design features a curved torch, symmetrical in shape on both sides, with the bottom bearing an undulating water motif. Lehanneur’s new take on the torch also incorporates the ethos of the games, said Lehanneur and Paris 2024 head of design Joachim Roncin.
“We were looking for a strong message bearing in this case, of course, the message of peace and unity, but also a symbol of parity,” said Roncin.
“We had something in mind [that] it’s not only about a shape, it’s also about something — a message we want to share with the rest of the world,” Roncin continued. He noted that all of the torches within the last 40 years have had a similar stick-and-vase shape, and the Paris team was looking for a new idea.
The process began six months ago with a call for submissions. Ten designers originally entered, with a short list of three, before his was chosen as the final design.
Lehanneur — who has designed the Maison Kitsuné flagship in New York as well as interiors and experiences for brands including Guerlain, Audemars Piguet and Cartier — said that while it was unusual for him to enter a competition, “it was impossible for me to say no.”
The contest allowed more than one design from each entrant — but Lehanneur said he submitted the only one that he really believed in.
The values of Paris 2024 underpinned his design approach. The first value he looked at was equality, noting that it is the first Olympics in history that will have exactly the same amount of men and women athletes competing. That led to the torch’s unique shape.
“I turned it into an object playing on this idea of symmetry,” he said. “We tried to play with symmetry on top and below. So this is the very first time we tried to work on a totally new type of shape.”
Lehanneur wanted to express the idea of water — fitting as the opening ceremony is slated to take place on the Seine, as well as the torch’s trip to France’s outer islands. “Water in that sense is a common thread to all the elements,” he said.
He also wanted to express the idea of peace, and reaffirm the torch as a uniting symbol. “It’s to be a kind of icon of generosity, or transmission of fraternity, something that expresses the idea of bringing people together,” he said. In terms of design, Lehanneur interpreted that in soft curves and undulating ripples in the center of the body.
Tinged in a soft champagne color, the torch has two finishes, a matte brushed steel and a reflective polished steel, separated by a thin golden ring. With medals in mind, the color in meant to invoke a blend of gold, silver and bronze.
Reaching just over two feet high, he was judicious with its interior components and reduced the steel to just 0.7 mm to keep it light at around three pounds. Lehanneur has also incorporated a unique side slit so the fire can remain lit in any kind of wind or weather.
“Such a project is a dream for a designer, because it’s a project that combined everything — symbolic, technical — in one, for a big moment,” added Lehanneur.
“It’s a question of balance,” he told WWD of hitting the right notes while going through a rigorous testing process to push the design boundaries both aesthetically and technically.
Lehanneur said some who have seen it prior to the reveal said it recalled a Greek amphora, or even a bicep, but in the end the torch is meant to be a lasting symbol of the Games. “The elements are important in terms of designing…but in the end the torch belongs to everyone.”
Another pillar of the Paris Olympics is sustainability. ArcelorMittal manufactured the torch using recycled scrap steel, and this year the committee will make only 2,000 torches to be reused throughout the relay, as opposed to the 12,000 made previously. The components can also be disassembled and recycled. The committee called the decision “a balance between sustainability and legacy.”
In an announcement Monday night, LVMH revealed that several of its houses will contribute to the Games, with jeweler Chaumet designing the medals, and hinted that Dior will have a role in the opening ceremony. Its Sephora beauty retailer will be a partner for the torch relay.
The torch will start its journey across the country in the southern city of Marseille on May 8, 2024. Ten thousand torchbearers will carry the flame through a relay, including a journey by boat to French overseas territories, before it returns to mainland France and on to Paris. The torch will then officially open the Games with a cauldron lighting ceremony on July 26, 2024.
Lehanneur is also designing the Olympic cauldron, which will be revealed at a later date.