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Olympic mascots

I have a passion for collecting Olympic mascot pins that began was I was about six years old. Pin collecting turns out to be a hobby and also a huge following everywhere in the world, almost a sport unto its own at the Olympics. If the Olympics comes to your city then you can easily find yourself participating in all sorts of Olympic pin collecting.

Through collecting I have made many friends and met people from all over. It is so rewarding to talk to people with similar interests from so far away.

Here for your edification is an article I wrote for our pin club on Olympic mascots. In time I will update it to our current year.

Grenoble 1968; Schuss

It is France, winter of 1968, the tenth winter Olympics are being held in Grenoble. The local organizing committee is looking to do something different, and have the first mascot created for the Olympic games. Schuss was a little cartoon-like man on skis with a bulbous red-head with a blue and white body, the colours of the French flag. He was featured on a pin and small toys, but not as a plush mascot. “Schuss” is a skiing term meaning to pivot and turn as you glide down the hill.

Munich 1972; Waldi

Skip past two Olympic games without a mascot, Mexico and Sapporo. It is now the summer games in Germany and the first official mascot comes onto the scene. Waldi the colourfully striped dachshund, with vertical stripes containing any three of the five Olympic colours, appeared on buttons, posters and stickers, as well as plush and plastic toys. It was only some years after the Olympics that he came out as a pin. It was said that he was very popular in Bavaria, the little dog possess qualities which are indispensable to an athlete; resistance, tenacity and agility. His colours were chosen to express the gaiety and joy of the Olympic festival. The Olympians sure needed the help of the little dog to bring back happiness of the Olympic games when terrorists attacked the Athletes’ Village.

Innsbruck 1976; Schneemann

Not everyone has a German grandmother, so you may not know that Schneeman means “snowman” in German and is pronounced, shh-knee-man. The Austrian Olympic committee declared that he symbolized their “Games of Simplicity.” This short snowman with a carrot nose and a red hat from the Austrian mountains in Tyrol was the first official mascot of the winter games.

Montreal 1976; Amik

The beaver is a national symbol of Canada and had an important role during the development of the nation because of the importance in the fur trade. Beavers are also important to the Canadian ecosystem. their patience and hard work building lodges and dams provide water for many other animals and birds. Amik comes from the native Algonquian language, meaning beaver and wore a red belt sporting the Olympic rings symbolizing the ribbon to which the winders medal is attached.

Moscow 1980; Misha

The Russians were the first to use their mascot as an entity in the Olympics. he was seen extensively during the Olympics, and played a role in the opening and closing ceremonies. He was even shown with a tear in his eye at the closing ceremonies. This cute little brown bear wearing a belt with Olympic rings really went everywhere, including into outer space with two cosmonauts. Misha’s full name is Mikhail Potapych Toptygin. He was described as the embodiment of kindness and strength, hospitality and sportsmanship, nerve and calm. The bear has an independent character and confidence in its strength – qualities essential for each competitor.

During the same games there was another less well-known mascot, this time just for the yachting events, Vigri the baby seal.

Sarajevo 1984; Vuchko

Wolves are traditionally known as being frightening and blood thirsty, especially in the region of Sarajevo where this mascot came from. Vuchko, with his sweater and attractive scarf helped changed the image by symbolizing the desire of humans to make friends with the animals. He was chosen through a competition in the newspaper and was chosen from a group of six other finalists including a chipmunk, a lamb, a mountain goat, a porcupine and a snowball.

Los Angeles 1984; Sam

Sam was designed to appeal to children. Walt Disney productions selected a bald eagle, the national symbol of the United States, to be the mascot for the 1984 summer Olympic games. They initially considered a palm tree or a sun to reflect California’s sunny beaches, but decided on a national focus instead. Sam’s colours in his tie and top hat are the red, white and blue of the American flag.

Calgary 1988; Hidy and Howdy

The first of the multiple mascots, Hidy and Howdy were a pair of polar bear siblings dressed in cowboy attire. Their names were selected from a contest sponsored by the Calgary zoo and are forms of “hello,” and expressed the feeling of brotherhood and welcome. They embodied the warmth of Canadian hospitality.

Seoul 1988; Hodori and Hosuni

Once again there is a pair of mascots for the Olympics, a male and female tiger which are present in many Korean legends, but little is seen of Hosuni, the smaller, female tiger. She is only seen accompanying her partner and is the same except for being smaller. The “Ho” in their names comes from the Korean word for tiger and “dori” is a common masculine diminutive. Hodori wears the Olympic rings around his neck and a Sangmo hat, which is a traditional farmer’s hat, with a streamer coming from the top in the shape of an “S” that stands for Seoul.

Albertville 1992; Magique

We return to France, the birthplace of the Olympic mascot, and the French once again do something different. They initially choose a happy little mountain goat called a Chamois to be the mascot, it was introduced at the closing ceremonies of the previous games, but was dropped two years before the Albertville games. They instead come up with an original concept, a snow imp named Magique. It is the shape of a star with the colours of the French flag. He was to have come to Earth from the sky to participate in the games, to spread the Olympic spirit to children the world over. He was to be the emotional counterpart to the technical nature of the games. Unfortunately his shape didn’t translate well into a plush mascot with a person inside, so he wasn’t able to connect with people as mush as other mascots in the past.

Barcelona 1992; CoBi

CoBi is a stylized version of a Catalonia yellow, long-haired mountain sheepdog. His name comes from an acronym of the Barcelona Olympic Organizing Committee in Spanish. Because of his artistic look, his image needed a little adjustment to translate into souvenirs. He was unloved at first, but he grew in popularity in Spain during the games.

Lillehammer 1994; Haakon and Kristin

This pair of Norwegian children originated from folklore were the first people like mascots in the history of the Olympic games. Haakon was a king and his aunt was Kristin. There were sever pairs of real-life blond, blue-eyed Norwegian children representing them in traditional dress who traveled the world promoting the games.

Atlanta 1996; Izzy

Izzy, initially known as Whazi8t, was the first computer animated mascot with the ability to change in appearance to represent different athletes and sports. This made a major challenge to translate his image into print and other souvenirs. A group of children chose his name because no one really seemed to know what it was. His story was that he was a fantasy figure who lived inside the Olympic flame. His form changed from the official revealing at the closing ceremonies of the Barcelona games to settle on a blue figure with stars in his eyes, a nose and mouth, muscular legs and big red feet. Considered on of the least loved and attractive mascots to date, he wouldn’t be the last.

Nagano 1988; Sukki, Nokki, Lekki and Tsukki

The Japanese chose four mascots, some say because the games are held every for years some because of the four major islands in Japan, and some say they represent nature with fire, wind, earth and water. Whatever the reason, they are the most mascots to represent the Olympic games so far and they replaced a single, original design for the mascot, a weasel named Snowple. Sukki, Nokki, Lekki, and Tsukki also known as the snowlets (the first letters of their names spell this out) are colourful, cartoonish show owls and are said to represent the wisdom of the woods. They had a similar experience as CoBi, and it wasn’t until the games that the Japanese public fell madly in love with them.

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