OLYMPIC MASCOTSThere have been three dogs, four owls, twochildren, two ancient Grecian dolls, onesnowball and even an ice cube - and thelatest addition to the Olympic stable are two drops of enchanted steel. Ever since 1972, when Germangraphic designer Otto Aicher first introduced Waldi, a dachshund, as the official Olympic mascot atMunich, mascots have become a fundamental partof each edition of the Games. Often chosen bypopular vote, mascots are a chance to present aside of the Olympic community, which is both playfuland symbolic, creating an opportunity toengage with an audience evenbeyond the Games themselves -particularly children. And, thanks totheir many permutations, be they softtoys, posters, pins or piggy banks, mascotshave become a source of revenue, too; someare even collectors items -if you have aSchneeman plush toy (Innsbruck 1976),keep hold of it. Most people remember Waldi as the firstofficial mascot, but he had a precursor: Schuss.Half man, half ski machine, Schuss was OLYMPIC REVIEW61Animals that were representative both of their country and the Olympic spirit havebeen a formula that's been popular eversince: Amik, the beaver, a creatureassociated with hard work, was Canada's ?introduced, unofficially, at the 1968 Winter Gamesin Grenoble, and his popularity set the mascot ballrolling, skipping only the 1972 Winter Games inSapporo to be a feature of every edition since.Unlike Schuss, Waldi, however, was designed withspecific goals in mind. Aicher knew how populardachshunds were in Bavaria (Waldi was based onhis own dog, a long-haired Cherie von Birkenhof),and felt that the animal's distinctive characteristics- tenacity and agility, for example - accuratelyrepresented the qualities required to succeed at the Olympic Games.
62OLYMPIC REVIEWchoice for the Summer Games of Montreal in 1976,and Olly, a kookaburra, Syd, a platypus, and Millie, an echidna, were chosen as mascots for the SydneyGames in 2000. Olly stood for the generosity of theOlympic spirit, Syd represented the energy of theAustralian people, and Millie, who was something of a geek, stood for the Millennium. It's a formula that's still going strong: Beijing'sfive mascots in 2008 not only spelt out "BeijingHuanying Ni" (Welcome to Beijing) and combined five colours of the Olympic rings, but also suggestedthe fish, the panda, the Olympic flame, the Tibetanantelope and the swallow, symbols of blessings of prosperity, happiness, passion, health and good luck respectively.Native legends have also been a rich seam ofinspiration: Hodori, who was one of the mascots forSeoul in 1988 tapped into the long and populartradition of Korean tiger myths, and Haakon and Kristin- to date the only people-like mascots in the OlympicGames (and represented by real children to promotethe games) -in Lillehammer in 1994 were based on figures from Norwegian folklore who are creditedwith reuniting the nation in the Middle Ages. Salt Lake City, in 2002, introduced us to Powder,a snowshoe hare, Copper, a coyote, and Coal, anAmerican black bear, three mascots which managedto marry Native American legend - which told of the hare travelling more swiftly, the coyote climbinghigher and the bear being stronger than the otheranimals - with the Olympic motto "citius, altius,fortius" (swifter, higher, stronger.)Beyond their symbolic status, mascots havebeen the perfect vehicle to bring the public closer to the Olympic community. Vucko, the wolf, waschosen by readers of major Yugoslav newspapers to represent the Sarajevo Games in 1984; CalgaryZoo sponsored a contest to find names for the polarbears that represented the 1988 Winter Games -Hidy and Howdy beat nearly 7,000 other entries -and similarly Hodori (Ho meaning tiger and dori a male diminutive), the name of the mascot for theGames in Seoul, held that same year, was pickedfrom a public list of 2,295. Of course, like the athletes they are designed tosupport, not all mascots are equal. Misha (Moscow1980), in particular, stands out as being arguablymore successful that the Games that he wasdesigned to promote. Designed by children'sillustrator Victor Chizikov, Mikhail Potapych Toptygin(as he was more formally known) was adored bymillions who rushed to buy images of him - whetherit was a plush toy, or a plastic one. He even made it onto a stamp. Almost as popular was Sam, a stars-and-stripes clad bald eagle designed by Disneyfor the Los Angeles Games in 1984 - and the firstmascot to be actively aimed at children.Regrettably less successful was Izzy, the firstcomputer-designed mascot devised for the 1996Atlanta Games. Izzy was actually short for Whatizit,which was perhaps a fitting name for a creation,which was described, in politer circles at least, as a 'blob'. Izzy evolved in the run up to the Games -gaining stars in the eyes and stronger, longer limbsto make him appear more athletic, but not even the addition of a nose could ever really endear him to the public. Other, seemingly unpromising mascots have faredbetter: Cobi, best described as a Cubist sheepdog ina suit, was designed for the Barcelona Olympics in1992. When first unveiled even the IOC President atthe time, Juan Antonio Samaranch, admitted to beingunimpressed. Cobi's designer, Javier Mariscal, didn't blame him: "It is hard to fall in love at first sightwith a dog that looks as if it has been run over by a heavy goods vehicle," he said. And yet, Cobi slowly but surely won the worldover to become a firm favourite with the public bythe time the Games began. Similarly Sukki, Nokki,Lekki and Tsukki, the four snow owls that were themascots for the Nagano Games in 1998 -themselves a replacement for a weasel by the nameof Snowple - received a lukewarm reception from