Stephen Bayley: British design extinguishes the kitsch

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The Olympics inspires the direst sort of kitsch. Thus, the visually illiterate logo and wince-makingly bathetic mascots. So it is good to report that the new Olympic torch shines a bright light on Locog's own dark chapter in the history of taste.

Designed by the Barber Osgerby duet, the torch happily resists temptations of historical symbolism. Bright metal is fashionable today, so a gold-plated, tapering aluminium-alloy torch is perforated with eight thousand laser-cut holes to represent the number of runners in the relay.

It is made by Premier Sheet Metals of Coventry, one of those unknown, but world class, British businesses that keep a much more important flame alive: local manufacturing. Expertise acquired by Premier in making car prototypes and aerospace parts was exploited to make this lightweight, advanced precision structure.

Sebastian Coe launched his torch at St Pancras, in the shadow of the German Gymnasium where the National Olympian Association held its first Games in 1866. Indeed, the torch relay was itself a German invention for the Nazi Olympics. In 1936, Krupp manufactured the torch and classically draped virgins attended the ceremony. One assumes the designers advised against populist vulgarity.

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