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Animals, snowmen, and… whatzits: Olympic mascots through time

The very first official Olympic Games mascot appeared in 1972 for the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Waldi the dachshund started a tradition of capturing the spirit of the Olympics with a good-luck character. Runners even ran a course route that was in the shape of the mascot!

Since then there have been animal mascots, imaginary characters, mythical creatures, and even a cyclops mascot that was based on the material used to build an Olympic stadium. Check out just some of the many that have come to symbolize the Olympic Games and athletic spirit:

Waldi - Munich 1972 Olympic Games

Waldi was the first official mascot. This colourful dachshund was based on a real dog named Cherie von Birkenhof. This type of dog is very popular in Germany, famed for its endurance, tenacity, and agility.

Schneemann -  Innsbruck 1976 Winter Olympic Games

Schneemann, the first official mascot of the Winter Games, has an appropriate name: it means "snowman" in German. His little red hat - called a Tyrolean - is typical of the region that hosted the games.

Amik - Montreal 1976 Olympic Games

Not only is the beaver a symbol of Canada, it's also an animal known for its patience and hard work. What a perfect mascot for the Olympics in Canada!

Roni - Lake Placid 1980 Winter Olympic Games

This was the first time in Olympic history that a mascot was featured playing different sports. The name - Roni - was chosen by school children and comes from the word "raccon" in Iroquoian.

Misha - Moscow 1980 Olympic Games

Prior to the Olympics, Misha was launched into space to spend time on the Salyut 6 space station - how cool is that? He was designed by children's book illustrator Vixtor Chizhikov. He also had a doll that was used during the opening and closing ceremonies and he appeared in an animated short film and TV series.

Vučko - Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympic Games

The Sarajevo mascot was chosen through a contest entered by over 800 participants. Not only is the wolf a prominent figure in Yugoslavian fables, it embodies courage and symbolises winter.

Sam - Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games

Designed by Disney legend Bob Moore, Sam was the Olympic mascot of the Los Angeles games. The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States and a perfect choice for these Games. In addition to his mascot duties Sam was featured in a cartoon as a detective who used the magic of the five Olympic Rings.

Haakon & Kristin - Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympic Games

These two happy children were the first mascots in human form. Their names refer to historical figures from the 13th century - Hakon IV Hakonson, King of Norway and Princess Kristin, his aunt - who are very important to the history of Norway and the Lillehammer region.

Izzy - Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games

Izzy was originally called "Whatizit," which is appropriate since this mascot isn't an animal, a human, or an object. His name was chosen by American children from over 3,000 suggestions from children in 16 different countries. 

Sukki, Nokki, Lekki, and Tsukki - Nagano 1998 Winter Olympic Games

These four owls are also known as Snowlets, They each come together to represent the four elements and four years that make up an Olympiad: Sukki (fire), Nokki (air), Lekki (earth), and Tsukki (water).

Syd, Olly, & Millie - Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

This is the first time in Olympic history that there were three official mascots: Syd is a reference to Sydney, Olly to the Olympics, and Millie to a new millenium. Syd is a duck-billed platypus, Olly is an echidna, and Millie is a spiny anteater - three typical Australian animals.

Powder, Coal, & Copper - Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games

For the 2002 Winter Olympics, over 42,000 school children submitted ideas for the mascot's names. The final choices reflect Utah's natural resources and landscape: Powder is a snowshoe hare, Copper is a coyote, and Coal is a black bear. 

Phevos & Athena - Athens 2004 Olympic Games

The names of the Athens mascots are a reference to two ancient gods of Olympus: Phoebos is another name for the god of music and light (Apollo), and Athena is another name for the goddess of wisdom. Phevos wears blue to symbolize the sea and Athena wears orange to symbolize the sun.

Neve & Gliz - Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games

You can tell by their shapes, but in Italian Neve means "snow" Gliz means "ice". So it's no surprise that one is a snowball and one is an ice cube. Together, they make the perfect conditions for Winter Olympics.

Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, & Nini - Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

A fun fact: when you link the five names of the mascots, you form the sentence "Welcome to Beijing" (Bei Jing Huan Ying Nin). Each mascot bears a wish: Beibei (blue) is a fish and wishes prosperity; Jingjing (black) is a panda and wishes happiness; Yingying (yellow) is an antelope and wishes good health; Nini (green) is a swallow and wishes good luck; and Huanhuan (red) is fire and emits the passion of sport.

Quatchi & Miga - Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games

Quatchi and Miga were inspired by the fauna and tales of the Canadian West Coast First Nations. Quatchi is a sasquatch (they do exist!) and Miga is a sea bear, a mythical animal that is part killer whale and part spirit bear. They also have a friend called Mukmuk, inspired by a rare type of marmot that lives only on an island in Vancouver.

Wenlock - London 2012 Olympic Games

This strange mascot takes his name from the twon of Much Wenlock in Shropshire. According to legend, Wenlock was made from one of the last drops of steel used to build the Olympic Stadium (which is why his forehead is the same shape as the roof).; the light on his head is one found on London's famous cabs; his eye is the lens of a camera filming everything he sees; and the three points on his head represent the three places on the podium for winners.

The Hare, the Polar Bear, and the Leopard - Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Three mascots to represent three places on the podium. The mascots for the 2014 Sochi Wnter Games had the honour of being featured on a new 25-ruble coin.

Vinicius - Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Vinicius is a mix of different Brazilian animals and represents the diversity of the Brazilian people and culture - with a little bit of video games, pop culture, and animation thrown in. His name pays tribute to Brazilian musician Vinicius de Moraes.

 

 

 

With additional information from Rio2016