VANCOUVER—On Thursday, Aug. 20, Leo Obstbaum, design director for the Vancouver Olympic Games, passed away unexpectedly in his home. He was 40.
Obstbaum moved to Vancouver in 2005 with his wife and daughter after falling in love with the city on his honeymoon. He was hired by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) as director of design in the spring of 2006, and was responsible for the overall look of the 2010 Winter Games.
One of his accomplishments for the Games was designing this year’s mascots: Miga, Quatchi and Sumi. In a past interview, Obstbaum said his dream was “to see three generations of people wearing the same mascot T-shirt. This would mean to me that the Games really touched everyone.” Obstbaum was also responsible for the torch designs and the yet-to-be-unveiled Olympic and Paralympic medals.
Previous to his work with VANOC, Obstbaum had already proven his wide-ranging talent. The Buenos Aires native founded his own design studio in 1990, called Elestudio, specializing in fashion, music and film design. Obstbaum had also worked in print, broadcast, film, textile and web design, as well as on wardrobe design for both the opera Don Quixote by La Fura dels Baus in Barcelona and the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona Olympic Games.
In a 2006 interview with Design Edge, Ali Gardener, director, brand and creative services at VANOC, praised Obstbaum’s wealth of experience:
“The thing about the Olympics is you are doing industrial design, environmental design, graphic design, broadcast and Leo is one of these rare people who actually has exposure to all of it,” she said.
After receiving the news, VANOC CEO John Furlong commemorated Obstbaum’s work in an internal message to staff last Friday:
“Leo is everywhere you look, in every color, every texture, in every little bit of Vancouver 2010,” he said. “Leo led and influenced the design of some of the most iconic pieces of the 2010 Winter Games. His spirit and daring inspiration has touched absolutely everything and because of him memories of the Games will live on for generations… a true enduring legacy of what went on here in Vancouver.”
No information has been released on the cause of death. His funeral will take place at 11am on Thursday, Aug. 27 at the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery in New Westminster, B.C. Details on a service for friends of Obstbaum, to be held at the VANOC offices, have yet to be confirmed. Contact: www.vancouver2010.com