October 15 - Round, undulating medals featuring the stylized eye and fin of an orca whale will be awarded to successful athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, it was revealed during ceremony today.

Square medals for the Paralympics were also unveiled.

Those feature elements of a raven.

Canadian industrial designer and architect Omer Arbel adapted large master artworks by Komoyue and Tlingit artist Corrine Hunt.

Hunt said she chose the orca to represent the Olympics because a whale's pod demonstrates teamwork.

A raven, she said, represents Paralympians rising above physical challenges.

Vancouver 2010 deputy chief executive Dave Cobb said athletes were consulted during the design process.

He said: "They wanted them to be big and heavy."

Late Vancouver 2010 design chief Leo Obstbaum, who died suddenly at age 40 in August, led the top secret creative process.

They were modeled at today's ceremony by United States 2002 bobsledding gold medalist Jill Bakken and five-time Paralympian Daniel Wesley of Canada, who has won 12 medals in alpine skiing and wheelchair racing at the Summer and Winter Games.

Brakken said: "An Olympic or Paralympic medal is a cherished possession for every athlete - it's what we all strive for when we train and compete.

"To feel it being placed around your neck on the podium or seeing children's eyes light up when you show it to them are experiences that defy words.

"Seeing these beautiful medals today makes me wish I was competing again in 2010."

Wesley said: "Every one of my medals has meaning and motivation because of the memories attached to them and the people I've been able to share them with, from family and friends to the crowds in the stadiums on those days.

"The 2010 Paralympic medals - and the care taken by the design team to ensure they're equal in size to the Olympic medals yet still unique in their artwork and shape - demonstrates to me, the public and other Paralympians how greatly our accomplishments and stories are valued."

The 615 Olympic and 399 Paralympic medals weigh 500 to 576 grams and were made by the Royal Canadian Mint using metal supplied by Vancouver mining giant Teck Resources.

Among those who attended today's launch were British Columbia Prime Minister Gordon Campbell, who was shown them by Hunt (pictured).

 The metal was sourced from Teck mines in British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland, Alaska, Chile and Peru.

The medals also include metal recovered from recycled circuit boards.

Canada failed to win gold at home when it hosted the Montreal 1976 Summer Games and Calgary 1988 Winter Games.

For Montreal 1976, the Games logo was surrounded by laurels.

The Calgary 1988 medals featured a wreath-crowned athlete next to an aboriginal chief whose headdress was formed by a sled, skis, skate blades, hockey sticks and a rifle.

A gold medal has not been completely gold since Stockholm 1912.

Nowadays, gold and silver medals are both 92.5 per cent silver, but six grams of gold covers the first prize medals.

Other strict rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) state Olympic medals must be at least 5 mm thick and 70 mm in diameter.

However, they need not be round.

Arbel said: "For me, it was really important that in some way every medal would be completely unique from every other medal; and yet be connected to each other and to Corrine's larger artworks in some profound manner.

"It's a beautiful idea because it means on a conceptual level you need all the medals together to complete the artworks.

"I've always thought of the Olympic Games as a catalyst for great contemporary design.

"It's exciting to have arrived at a piece of work that challenges people's expectations of what a medal can be."