Gone are the days of "easy" Olympic marketing to kids. Who can forget Sam the Olympic Eagle of 1984, flapping his wings and pecking with his over sized, Big Bird-yellow beak? He was simple. All American. Easy to "get it" that he was a patriotic symbol of LA84. Perfect!
Apparently, his likeness continues to appear in Japanese animation almost 30 years post-Games, indicative of staying power not often enjoyed by mascots of the five-ringed variety.
My earliest Games mascot memory is actually Sam's winter Olympic cousin, Roni the Raccoon of Lake Placid, N.Y. I have vivid memories of shopping with mom at the drug store during first grade winter months, selecting a giant coloring book filled with images of Roni donning winter sports gear, ready to be filled with Crayon wax while watching ABC Sports.
Roni, too, was simple. Two dimensional. One of the good mascots.
Somewhere along the way -- I think with Barcelona's 1992 Cobi (a mascot to love, by an artist who is now among my favorites), or perhaps with Atlanta's "Jimmy Carter sperm" mascot, IZZY (terrible) -- when Olympic mascots got off track. WAY off track. Then they mutated and multiplied, and some host city selection teams even looked to other worlds for inspiration (remember Neve and Gliz from Torino?).
My brain is still processing those "things" they selected as London's Olympic icons.
For the creators of "The Leopard" it may have been LSD. How else would they take this lovely big cat from a mountaintop tree and set him (or her? or it?) on a makeshift snowboard to warn nearby villagers of an approaching avalanche by banging a large stone on a church bell?
Next, put this one under your tongue: For "The Hare" methinks the meds of choice may have been Ecstasy given the creature's manic pace, as detailed in the Sochi.ru video introducing this character as a figure skater and family restaurant employee. Huh? (He, she or it also plays guitar like Forrest Gump's girlfriend, Jenny, on a stool before summoning the fire department much like "Lassie" in any rescue situation.)
It may have just been some weed or good shrooms that inspired the Sochi team's morphing of Russia's 1980 bear mascot Misha into a North Pole-based polar bear (there is a facial resemblance, sort of, for the 2014 mascot "The Polar Bear"). This guy was rescued from a chunk of glacier that broke off and floated to sea. Raised by scientists/humans on a ship, he later learned sledding sports. Oh, and he carries a cell phone.
All of the Sochi mascots carry a cell phone -- WTF!?!
The cell phone for the bear is ringing now (in my head ... sans shrooms). It's the Charmin bears calling wanting a rewrite to the story their creators shat.
Well, on the plus side, the Sochi Olympic site includes a clever "Mascot Home" page featuring the aforementioned characters, as well as their other-worldly Paralympic mascot cousins (don't get me started) and handy links to the history of other summer and winter Games critters. I liked the recycling/green message, and the videos are of "high" quality (thank you, double-entendres).
What or who is your favorite Olympic mascot? And your least favorite? And which do you remember as your "first" Olympic mascot?
Images via Sochi.ru