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Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

BBC's Winter Olympics star


BBC Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics trail

Do you remember Monkey and his friends, Pigsy and Sandy, who flashed across our screens in the heady summer days of 2008 to herald the start of BBC Sport's Beijing Olympic coverage?

Inspired by that titles sequence, BBC Sport's Vancouver Winter Olympics coverage will feature the story of Akiak and his quest to find the missing head of Ilanaaq, a stack of rock in human form, which sits on the mountain above Whistler, where the skiing and sliding events will take place.

The animation was created by Bafta-winning director, Marc Craste, of Studio AKA.

Akiak, like Monkey before him, will showcase a number of Olympic sports as he searches the land around the Canadian host city to complete his task.

Akiak is a legendary Inuit, a member of the indigenous population who inhabit the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, Russia and the United States of America. His name means "brave" in his native language.

The Vancouver 2010 logo and the Whistler inukshuk
Ilanaaq, which sits on the mountain above Whistler, is a contemporary take on the inukshuk

Ilanaaq, the Inuit word for "friend", is the emblem of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and is a contemporary interpretation of an inukshuk.

Inukshuk are land markers. Their early incarnations were a single, upright stones, but they have evolved into more elaborate stacks of rock built in the form of a human. They are normally built at good hunting places and have been extremely important for Inuit survival over many thousands of years.

In the story of Akiak, the head of Ilanaaq has been stolen by a malevolent force, from whom our hero must retrieve the stone and return it to its rightful place.

Akiak snowboards, skis, jumps and skeleton-bobs to overcome obstacles in his path, such as crevasses, snow storms and dangerous wolves before using a curling stone to free Ilanaaq's head and re-build the stone marker.

Akiak will accompany all the action across BBC Sport on TV, on radio and online, when the action gets under way on 12 February. For UK viewers, the opening ceremony is in the small hours of the following morning.

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Profile: Marc Craste, Animator

Marc Craste

Marc Craste is a senior animation director working at Studio AKA in London. He has designed and directed many award-winning commercials in addition to three short films in the series Pica Towers, that have become cult viewing for many fans.

His 12-minute debut short film, Jojo in the Stars, won the 2004 BAFTA for Best Animated Short Film, the Special Jury Prize at the 2004 Aspen Short Film Festival and the European Cartoon d'Or 2005. It has screened at festivals in over 35 countries around the world.

Marc's recent 30-minute, animated short film, Varmints, premiered in the United States at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in August 2008, where it won the Grand Prize for Best Animation.

Marc's film is based on the book of the same name by celebrated children's author, Helen Ward.

Since its first screening in Rhode Island, Varmints has gone on to win 18 other international awards, was short-listed for the Oscars and nominated for a BAFTA award in 2009.

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