The 2014 Olympics Winter Games Mascots – by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
I was inspired to write this by the discovery that some of the “current” internet information about the 2014 Winter Olympics mascots is now being taken down. I feel that this will still be of interest to at least some furry fans, and somebody ought to save it while it’s available. Late January or February is a rough first anniversary.
A brief aside about sobering world news… The “most expensive Olympics games in history” left more abandoned than the mascots.
The 2014 Olympics Winter Games Mascots
The 2014 Olympics Winter Games, in Sochi, Russia from February 23 to March 1, 2014, are almost a year old now. Information about them is disappearing from the Internet. It’s time to save their three anthropomorphized mascots before they’re gone for good.
The mascots of the Olympics Summer Games are much better known. The Olympics Winter games go back to 1924, with their mascots going back to Innsbruck in 1976. Yet the public forgets them quickly. Hidy & Howdy, the mascots of the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta, were described at the time as a combination of Canada’s polar bear and brown bear; polar bears with brown bear muzzles. But today they are only briefly mentioned as “polar bears”, despite pictures clearly showing their brown muzzles.
This is largely due to the International Olympics Committee’s own by-laws. According to Rule 50 governing the use of mascots:
50.3. Any mascot created for the Olympic Games shall be considered to be an Olympic emblem, the design of which must be submitted by the OCOG to the IOC Executive Board for its approval. Such mascot may not be used for commercial purposes in the country of an NOC without the latter’s prior written approval.
50.4. The OCOG shall ensure the protection of the property of the emblem and the mascot of the Olympic Games for the benefit of the IOC, both nationally and internationally. However, the OCOG alone and, after the OCOG has been wound up, the NOC of the host country, may exploit such emblem and mascot, as well as other marks, designs, badges, posters, objects and documents connected with the Olympic Games during their preparation, during their holding and during a period terminating not later than the end of the calendar year during which such Olympic Games are held. Upon the expiry of this period, all rights in or relating to such emblem, mascot and other marks, designs, badges, posters, objects and documents shall thereafter belong entirely to the IOC. The OCOG and/or the NOC, as the case may be and to the extent necessary, shall act as trustees (in a fiduciary capacity) for the sole benefit of the IOC in this respect.
The mascot suits, animation production materials and prints, and any unsold merchandise is required to be destroyed, not sold. This is why the judges of the Russian nationwide design contest to select the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics mascot, held September 1 to December 5, 2010, rejected a majority favorite among the 24,000 designs submitted: Ded Moroz, or (Grand)Father Frost. The judges explained during the February 7, 2011 announcement of the winners that, according to the IOC Rules, all Summer and Winter games mascots become the property of the IOC, and must be discontinued within the end of the calendar year after the completion of their games. Since Father Frost is a traditional Russian folkloric character, nobody would want to give him up to the IOC and have him discontinued after a year. (The popular Russian continued use of Misha, the bear cub mascot of the 1980 Olympics Summer Games, may be illegal; but that’s a separate matter.)
The International Olympics Committee chose the site for the 2014 Winter Games on July 4, 2007. The winner was Sochi, Russia’s most popular Black Sea resort city (near the Russia-Georgia border) with many sports facilities. The Russian Bidding Committee became the Russian 2014 Olympics Winter Games Committee. One of its first duties was to select the 2014 mascot.
The official vote was not until late 2010, but by then popular enthusiasm had overtaken the Committee. An unofficial selection was announced and voted upon at the same time as the 2008 Russian presidential election. 270,000 votes were cast for four candidates; Grandfather Frost (a traditional Russian personification of winter), a polar bear, a snowflake, and a dolphin. The dolphin won. The Committee explained diplomatically that this vote was not according to the Olympics by-laws, and that the official vote would be held in 2010.
The Olympics Committee received thousands of suggestions for a design. A Committee jury narrowed these down to eleven finalists. One was acknowledged but eliminated at the start, Ded Moroz, for the given reason. The other ten were: a polar bear, a brown bear (there was strong support to make Misha, the brown bear cub mascot of the 1980 Moscow Summer Games the mascot again, despite this being technically illegal), a snow leopard, an arctic hare, the Sun, a Snowflake, a Ray of Light, a bullfinch, a dolphin, and a group of traditional Matryosha (nesting) dolls.
Despite ten official choices, a write-in won! Zoich, an artistic play on the Cyrillic ZO14, was a fuzzy blue frog designed by Moscow artist Yegor Zhgun, with the five Olympics circles as the pupils of his eyes, holding a ski pole and with an imperial Russian crown over his head. (Or wearing the crown.) The Olympics Committee, possibly exasperated by that time, simply ignored Zoich. The Committee was careful to register ownership of the design, though.
The winners were announced on February 7, 2011. The Committee tried to please as many people as possible. It chose not one but three mascots, presumably the three most popular: The polar bear (designed by Oleg Serdechniy), the snow leopard (designed by Vadim Pak), and the arctic hare (designed by Silviya Petrova). In addition, two other designs were chosen as the mascots of the 2014 Paralympics Games, held alongside the Winter Games: the Snowflake (designed by Anna Zhilinsky, nine years old) and the Ray of Light (designed by Natalia Balashova).
The snow leopard and the hare were simply named Leopard and Zaika; the Russian words for the animals. The polar bear was named White Misha, probably as a nod to the continued popularity for Misha, the Summer 1980 mascot. The Snowflake and Ray of Light were anthropomorphized into a stylized Snow Girl and Fire Boy. The personifications of the three main mascots emphasized that Zaika was a girl; the mascots honored both genders.
The mascots were generally accepted by everyone, although there was still some controversy. Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin announced during the voting that he liked Leopard the best; Leopard promptly shot to the top of the voting. The polar bear was criticized as both looking too much like the mascot of the United Russia political party (who is not supposed to be cute), and looking too much like the 1980 Misha (who is supposed to be cute). Viktor Chizhikov, the designer of the 1980 Misha, doubtlessly encouraged by the White Misha name, complained that, “This polar bear, everything is taken from mine, the eyes, nose, mouth, smile. I don’t like being robbed.”
The Committee’s official interactive website for the mascots, which had personalities and backstories for each of the five, has already been taken down. Fortunately, another website copied much of the information for the three main mascots before that happened. Here it is.
The Polar Bear
The Polar Bear lives beyond the Arctic Circle on a shelf of ice. In his home, everything is made out of ice and snow: his snow shower, his bed, his computer and even his weight-lifting equipment. Arctic explorers raised the Polar Bear from a very early age. They taught him how to ski, speed skate and curl. But above all, the Polar Bear enjoyed riding sports sleighs. He became a real bobsleigh pro. These days, the Polar Bear’s friends often set up bobsleigh competitions. During the long Arctic nights, there’s never a dull moment.
The Hare is the busiest creature in the winter forest. Her friends are always amazed by how she finds time to do so much. The little doe hare not only studies at the Forest Academy (where she gets excellent grades) and helps her Mum in the family restaurant, “The Forest Dam”, but she also takes part in sporting events. In addition, she trusts her friends so much that she doesn’t have any secrets. The hare simply loves sports with all her heart. She also loves to sing and dance.
The Leopard is a rescuer and mountain-climber that lives in the uppermost branches of a huge tree, on the highest peak of the snowy mountains in the Caucasus. He is always prepared to help those in need, and on a number of occasions has rescued nearby villages from mighty avalanches. The Leopard is an experienced snowboarder and has taught all his friends and neighbors to snowboard too. He is a cheerful character who enjoys the company of others and loves dancing.
After their selection, everything went smoothly for the mascots for the rest of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Now it’s time for the mascots of the 2016 Olympics Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro: Vinicius the yellow omnianimal, and Tom the blue omniplant. Er, do you think that someone was watching too much Adventure Time?
Well, that’s another story.