Chinese company beats out foreign competitors in Olympic pin deal for the 2012 London Games, Erik Nilsson finds out.
One of the world's largest commemorative pin manufacturers, Beijing-based Honav Co Ltd, has become the first company to be chosen as the official designer of Olympic pins, for more than one consecutive set of Games. This is seen as a, well, gold-medal victory for the country in its transition from the "made-in-China" to "designed-in-China" label. Unsurprisingly, Honav created the pins for the 2008 Beijing Games, but now it has gone on to win the right to design and manufacture the 2012 London Games lapel pins. The 2,012 pin designs for the event will be available in China on July 27. "Nobody ever really doubted the ability of Chinese companies to produce pins," Honav's vice-general manager Wu Hui says. "But it was only after we got the chance to design the pins for the Beijing Games that we were able to demonstrate our innovative ability, which is how we won the bid for the 2012 Games."
Honav had to compete with 42 other companies to win those exclusive rights. In the final round of bidding, it defeated designers from the United States, Australia, Finland, Greece and the United Kingdom.
"We won because of our innovativeness and success during the Beijing Games, and because the world trusts China's manufacturing ability," Wu explains.
The London Games pins will be available at tourism centers in the UK capital. In Beijing, they can be found at the Bird's Nest, the Chinese Olympic Committee Gongmei Store in Qianmen and at an outlet in Wangfujing. They will most likely not be available outside of China or the UK.
All designs, aside from the logo pins, will be a limited edition and have a serial number on the back. Different pins will be produced in different numbers, Wu says. While the price has not yet been set, Wu expects they will average around 48 yuan each, or about 80 percent of the UK retail price.
Honav will also produce 500 sets that contain the entire collection, which are expected to sell for about 12,000 British pounds ($19,800) apiece. Many of the pins from the 2008 Olympics have risen in value a great deal, says Wu, who expects similar results for some of the 2012 designs.
"There are a lot of hardcore Olympic pin collectors out there," she says.
One of the pins from the Beijing Games - a red design commemorating the 1,000-day countdown to the opening ceremony - originally sold for 20 yuan and is now valued at 10,000 yuan, Wu says. That's partly because only 1,000 were produced.
"The Olympic pins are hot items on sites such as eBay.com and Taobao.com," Wu adds. "And their values fluctuate like stocks'."
These Games will have several special designs. The one that has captured the most public attention bears a rainbow that represents the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community, Wu says. It was commissioned by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, which gave several of the pins as gifts to community members.
"It's a special pin created to highlight the UK's multiculturalism and its diversity," Wu notes.
Honav's London Olympic Games design director, Yuan Zeming, says his favorite creations are a felt fabric pin with birds and dogs, and one with a mirror: "The one with the animals doesn't have anything to do with sports. The birds represent the city's natural environment and the dogs symbolize human activity."
Yuan says he got the idea while strolling through London's Greenwich Park and seeing so many people walking their pets.
"The felt incorporates a tactile component rarely found in official Olympic pins," he says. "It adds a sense of touch to the sense of sight."
But the mirror pin has been the most popular, Yuan says.
"Traditionally, the designer decides what will appear on the pin. But I wanted to break with this convention and empower the wearer to determine what appears on his pin," he explains.
"It depends on what you point it at. You can see yourself or your family, or whatever landscape you direct it toward. And if you feel mischievous, you can use it to flash sunlight."
The vice-general manager says Honav will of course do its best to wow the world with "designed-in-China" creativity for the 2012 Games but it is already getting its sights on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"There aren't so many Chinese enterprises operating on this kind of world stage right now, and we're in an exclusive market full of challenges and opportunities," she says.
"But we believe that, as long as we stick to our innovative philosophy, we can be a real global leader."