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Signing up for the games

Computers map the human traffic

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 10/01) - Logo or no logo? If you don't want thieves to make off with your equipment, answer that question carefully.

At least, that's what members of the Arctic Winter Games sign committee were told by Derek Paton, an expert who has organized signs and human traffic for the Olympics and Pan Am Games.

"We were very excited about the images we have for the games," said Bob Long, who sits on the sign committee. "We of course wanted to promote the games by using as many of those images as we could. But his advice was that any time you put any of those images on a sign, they become souvenir items and someone's going to steal them."

As a result, many of the signs at the Arctic Winter Games will be simple and straightforward, not flashy.

That's just one bit of learning Long picked up along the way. Another is that sitting on a sign committee is a lot of work. And it's not as low-tech as it may sound.

Instead, organizers have developed computer-automated models of some of the main locations, and are using them to map and co-ordinate human traffic. They have also walked numerous times through those buildings -- once as an athlete, then as a VIP, spectator, reporter, official and volunteer.

"We think about all the information that a particular individual is going to require on any given visit to that venue, and try to answer as many of those questions as possible with signage," said Tamara Macpherson, external relations manager for the games.

It's all part of figuring out where to put a few thousand signs.

Those signs fit into three rough categories: directional, sponsor and pageantry. In total, organizers expect they will need between 3,000 and 5,000 signs, banners and flags, each specifically assigned to one of 53 locations.

"We'll have a lot of strangers in town, they're going to need directions," said Long.

Some signs will be made in-house, others by T Fox Graphics, still others by Southern companies with more production capabilities.

And they all need to be ready the week of the games in March, although many will be in place before then.

Organizers are currently waiting for a report from Paton to see exactly how many signs are needed. The production process will then begin in earnest.

"By Jan. 15 we will know every single sign that's required and where it's going," said Macpherson, who has spent countless hours outlining and detailing the signage needs of the games. "It is totally mind-boggling."