Silver medalist Dale Begg-Smith of Australia, gold medalist Alexandre Bilodeau of Canada and bronze medalist Bryan Wilson of the United States stand atop the wood podium for the Freestyle Skiing Men's Moguls award ceremony on Feb. 14. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Source: VANOC/COVAN


When Alexandre Bilodeau stepped on the podium to receive his medal in Freestyle Skiing Men’s Moguls on Feb. 14, it marked the first time a Canadian has won gold on home soil in the Winter Olympic Games.

Also of cultural significance, Bilodeau received his gold medal standing on a podium made from wood indigenous to British Columbia.

UBC's CAWP helped manufacture the wood medal podiums. Photo credit copyright VANOC/COVAN. Source:

The 23 podiums used in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games were constructed from 18 wood types: coastal western red cedar, coastal Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, amabilis fir, blue-stained lodgepole pine, western larch, yellow cedar, paper birch, interior Douglas fir, interior western red cedar, subalpine fir, grand fir, white spruce, blue-stained ponderosa pine, western hemlock, sitka spruce, Engelmann spruce and underwater lodgepole pine. According to a release by the Ministry of Forests and Range, “The podiums provide insight to British Columbia’s culture and geography, including the 10,000-year history of First Nations, forests managed by local communities and the importance of forestry to the Province’s economy.”

The wood podiums, along with 84 medal trays, were built by team at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Advanced Wood Processing (CAWP). Led by wood manufacturing specialist Vincent Leung, the team included technical staff and current and past students of the UBC’s B.Sc. Wood Products Processing program. In constructing the unique podiums, the raw lumber was first sent to a Vancouver millwork company, where it was dried and fabricated into edge-glued panels. The panels were then sent to the manufacturing area at CAWP where, utilizing Mastercam CAD software and SCM CNC machining centers, the team cut more than 250 unique parts required for each of the podiums. The jigsaw puzzle-like parts were then provided to the RONA 2010 Fabrication Shop in East Vancouver for assembly.

“The Olympic medal podium project perfectly symbolizes the high technology and sophisticated design that is increasingly prevalent in today’s woodworking industry,” says CAWP Managing Director Iain Macdonald. “It is exactly these aspects, together with the sustainable nature of the wood resource itself, that attract people to the exciting and varied careers in our sector. For this reason we were delighted to be involved.”

The high-profile project was not without its challenges, however. “The lead times were extremely tight, and we had to plan very carefully to satisfy ourselves that we could complete the work on time,” said Leung. “When we first agreed to participate some of the raw materials were still standing trees, and this of course brought its share of drying and warping issues.”

In a second Olympic project, UBC Wood Products Processing students and industrial design students from Emily Carr University worked together on a unique class project in which they designed and built outdoor furniture that will be used in the Athlete’s Villages in Vancouver and Whistler, as well as at several Olympic Games venues. According to Macdonald, the experience gave undergraduates invaluable firsthand experience in designing and manufacturing to professional design criteria. “We pride ourselves on giving our students as much real-world experience and practical knowledge as possible,” Macdonald said. “This project went one step further however — seeing the fruits of their labor displayed on the world stage is just great inspiration.”

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