This list was first published in 2008. Seems a good time to revisit it.
A good Mascot is a symbol of the spirit of the Olympics in general; while, at the same time, teaching the world something about the country where the event is taking place. I also feel that mascots should exude a positive and focused energy and enthusiasm for the games as well as the city, country and culture they represent.
10. MukMuk (2010, Vancouver Winter Games)
This character is supposed to be a Vancouver Island Marmot but it would be more accurate to describe him as an underdog. He is the ‘designated sidekick’ of the three official mascots for the Winter Games: Quatchi, Miga and Sumi. It’s like the real mascots are saying, “Okay MukMuk you can hang out with us but you’re not really one of us.” And pathetic little MukMuk says, “Gee, thanks guys! Woo hoo!”.
While the official mascots are out in the real world promoting the Olympics (okay, they are really just humans in costume) MukMuk the wannabe just exists on the internet and is not even important enough to include on the souvenir merchandise. Poor little guy.
You can read more about little MukMuk’s plight.
9. Hosuni (1988, Seoul Summer Games)
Who? Exactly. The Seoul Games actually had two mascots, Hodori and Hosuni, but for some reason Hodori was way more popular. When you look at a picture of them, it’s hard to see why since they look EXACTLY THE SAME. Being the unpopular one is bad enough, but how about being completely erased from everyone’s memory? If you look up information about mascots on the Official Website of the Beijing Olympic Games, Hosuni isn’t even mentioned. It’s like she never even existed.
8. Cobi (1992, Barcelona Summer Games)
I have to admit this character is really, really cute. But in what stretch of the imagination does a dog wearing a business suit symbolize the Olympics? Have they added ‘commuting’ to the Olympic events? Or possibly ‘handshaking’ or ‘powerpoint presenting’? I think not.
7. Hidy & Howdy (1988, Calgary Winter Games)
Okay we get it, Calgary’s nickname is Cowtown and they have a big rodeo every year (the Calgary Stampede) so the cowboy/cowgirl theme makes sense. But ‘Hidy’ and ‘Howdy’? Why not just call them ‘Hick’ and ‘Hillbilly’? To make things worse, they were touted as ‘inseparable brother and sister polar bears’. Kind of cute or just creepy in that whole Angelina Jolie and her brother kind of way?
6. Waldi (1972, Munich Summer Games)
When I picture dogs competing in the various Olympic Summer Events (and I do this all the time, of course) I see a greyhound jumping hurdles, a Labrador retriever swimming and a whippet running around a track. But I never, ever, picture a short-legged, long-haired dachshund named Waldi. And, for goodness sake – it’s the Summer Olympics, Waldi, you can take off the sweater!
Waldi would have appeared closer to the number one position but he is the very first Olympic mascot ever so I’ve decided to ‘throw Munich a bone’.
5. Rocky (1980, Lake Placid Winter Games)
The mascot for the Lake Placid Winter Games was going to be a real live raccoon named Rocky but unfortunately he passed away before the games even began. A dead raccoon is not very inspiring or cute. In fact, it’s right up there with roadkill. I looked all over the web and could not find out how Rocky died. The most obvious suspect would be Roni, the cartoon raccoon who replaced him, but apparently his neighbor Wiley Coyote backed up his alibi. Rest in peace Rocky.
4. Athena and Phevos (2004, Athens Summer Games)
Otherwise known as Two Penises Wearing Sweaters or Two **** Wearing Dickies…
3. Olly, Syd and Millie (2000, Sydney Summer Games)
These forgettable mascots were completely upstaged by the unofficial mascot of the Sydney Summer Games, Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat. Fatso even appeared on the winners’ podium with several gold medalists. Meanwhile, poor Olly, Syd and Millie were being referred to as “Syd, Ollie and Dickhead” by the popular Australian comic duo Roy and HG. The Olympic Committee tried to discourage Fatso’s popularity at first but he became so popular that he ended up on a commemorative stamp and there is a statue of him outside the Sydney Olympic stadium.
2. Izzy (1996, Atlanta Summer Games)
Arguably the least successful mascot of all and evidently controlled by the most indecisive people in the world. First of all, not even the creators seem to know what he is supposed to be: isn’t Izzy short for ‘Whatizit’ or ‘Whatizhee’? And no one seemed to be able to settle on what he should look like either because his nose, size and eyes changed over time.
An article on the BBC news website quotes Simpsons creator Matt Groenig as describing Izzy as “a bad marriage of the Pillsbury doughboy and the ugliest California Raisin”. It then goes on to say that the US press described “as anything from a ‘blue slug’ to a ‘sperm in sneakers’. Source: BBC News
As a parting shot, perhaps I still have Athena and Phevos on my mind, but I have to agree Izzy does kind of look like a big blue sperm?
1. The Fuwa (2008, Beijing)
I am rating the Fuwa the worst mascot because, while others have been unpopular, confusing or silly, these bad luck dolls of Beijing are becoming downright ominous. Fuwa translates to the ‘good-luck dolls’ but you be the judge. First, the famous Chinese artist, Han Meilin, had two heart attacks while he was designing them. And now, each of the five characters that make up the Fuwa have been linked to events which have led to the superstitious term ‘the Curse of the Fuwa’. Nini (swallow/kite/locust figure) is linked to the Weifang T195 (“kite city”) train accident in April 2008 and the locust infestation in Inner Mongolia in June 2008. Yingying (the Tibetan antelope) is an obvious choice for association with the Tibetan unrest. Huanhuan, representing the Olympic flame, is being linked to the torch relay protests. Also, the Sichuan area, which suffered a catastrophic earthquake on May 12, 2008 is well known for its pandas and the fourth mascot, Jing Jing, is a panda character. The fifth and final Fuwa mascot is Beibeig, a fish who is representing the element water in the group. He is being associated to the floods in South China as well as an algal bloom in the Olympic sailing course.
According to Wikipedia, some people are now calling the characters “Wuwa” (witch dolls) instead of Fuwa and “online criticism of the dolls has frequently been censored”.
Personally, I think they are cute but I wonder how souvenir sales are doing? Are people reluctant to bring the bad mojo of these Fuwa/Wuwa into their homes?
Favorite Unofficial Mascots
Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat is probably the most famous unofficial mascot but he’s not the first. That distinction goes to Schuss the unofficial mascot of the 1968 Grenoble Olympic games. The tradition continues with Itchy the Bedbug, Creepy the Cockroach and Chewy the Rat, unofficial mascots for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics who appeared at the “Poverty Olympics” in 2008 to raise awareness for the poor and homeless.