February 17, 2010
After every Olympic event, rather than receiving their medals, athletes are given a bouquet of flowers. At the Beijing Olympics, roses dominated the bouquets. In Turin, it was rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias. This year, it's green mums and hypericum berries.
The bouquets come from Just Beginnings Flowers and Margitta's Flowers in Surrey, British Columbia. Their entry was chosen from 58 contending florists. June Strandberg, the bouquet designer and owner of Just Beginnings, teaches floristry to women who have left prison, are recovering from addiction, or have been victims of violence. It's a pretty amazing program, and Strandberg has even taken it behind bars, where she educates convicts. She believes it's her work with these correctional programs that secured the Olympic contract.
For the Vancouver Olympics the florists made 1,800 bouquets, 1,707 of which will be given to medal-winning athletes in the Olympics and Paralympics. The flowers are grown locally, but they aren't in season during February, so additional supplies were flown in from Ecuador.
The flowers were chosen to represent British Columbia and Canada, and are intended as keepsakes for the athletes. There are even strict regulations for the bouquets presented at the flower ceremonies. Per IOC protocol, bouquets must be 20 to 30 centimeters tall and about 25 centimeters across.
Though these flowers might look like something you give your mom at a homecoming football game, a lot of thought and planning goes into choosing and making these bouquets. When you consider the societal benefits behind these flowers, it almost makes the bouquets as valuable as the medals.