Since I’m going to be covering the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for Yahoo! Canada, I figure I might as well state for the record that my life is going to be Olympics, 24-7, for three weeks in February. I’m not complaining, though. Ever since the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, I’ve been completely enraptured with the Olympics. I’ve worked for two Toronto Olympic bids, watched both Winter and Summer Games obsessively, covered the 2006 Turin Winter Games for AOL and own a pretty hefty number of Olympics books.
Why do I care about the Olympics so damn much? Honestly, I have no idea. It was exciting and formative back in 1988 to see the Games in the proverbial backyard, what with Calgary. Now that I’m older and well aware of all the corruption and bad stuff that goes on at the highest levels of the I.O.C., it’s harder and harder to look at the Olympics as a morally pure, idealistic extravaganza. Of course, as my brother says, it’s also the only time when nationalism is actually cool.
But enough about all that. I’m probably going to blog about the Olympics pretty consistently now up to and including Vancouver. One of the things I admit I like doing about the Olympics is the miscellany that surrounds them, including the mascots. Oh the mascots. The few, the proud, the sometimes-dorky.
1980 – Lake Placid – Roni the Raccoon
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Adirondack Mountain range? Drunken backwoods huntin’ and killin’? Downhill skiing? The economic wasteland that is Upstate New York? A raccoon? Well, probably not a raccoon. Well, that’s actually what the Lake Placid Olympic Committee chose for its mascot: a creepy-looking raccoon. Check out this comparison:
Now, when you think of Lake Placid, you’ll be thinking of vampires. Stupid Lake Placid.
1984 – Sarajevo – Vučko, the little wolf
Okay, this is a bit better. Still odd, but better than the ultra-creepy Lake Placid mascot, but still not reaching the CuteOverload.com range that future mascots would employ to seduce people into loving the Games. Looks like a European version of Tom from Tom and Jerry, although let’s be honest, the first thought that comes to mind:
ENDUT! HOCH HECH!
1988 – Calgary – Hidy and Howdy, two ridiculously cute polar bears
Alright, now we’re getting somewhere. These adorable late 1980s-looking polar bears showed the world what Canada is all about: soft and cuddly on the outside, hard and cruel as hell to others in reality. Even though polar bears might look cute, they’re actually mean bastards that now eat each other since the polar ice caps have started melting and, you know, caused food supplies to decline to pathetically low proportions.
Still, hats look good. Calgary was still trading in stereotypes as of 1988, anyway.
1992 – Albertville – Magique, the man-star
Holy Christ. This is so lame. Aside from looking like a Coked-out Shriner’s Club Member, this doesn’t even look cute! It’s more scary than anything. I fear the day the French decide to drop thousands of these leftover bad boys onto beaches somewhere in the South Pacific. The French totally dropped the ball.
1994 – Lillehammer – Håkon and Kristin, two humans
Um… okay. See, only in Norway (and possibly Sweden) would this be considered a good idea: two real-life, people that require absolutely no anthropomorphization at all. Lillehammer was easily the best Winter Games ever and the people of Norway got it virtually 100 per cent right, but the mascots are lame. Mega-lame. Thanks for invoking the Olympic spirit, guys. *snark*
1998 – Nagano – The Snowlets – Sukki, Nokki, Lekki and Tsukki
See, I don’t get it. You’d think the Japanese, with their insane and overbearing love of all things cute, would have nailed this one down pat. But they didn’t: instead, they got four “snowlets” that look like they’re about to get run over by a car while tripping out on some really, really strong LSD.
2002 – Salt Lake City – Copper, Powder and Coal, three… um, animals/Earth-bound resources
This is what happens when you have a mascot by committee: you get mascots named after resources. I don’t care if they’re based on the Olympic motto or animals in the Mormon State of Utah. They don’t even look cute. They just seem boring and drab. Wait a minute, the Games were hosted in Utah… it all makes perfect sense.
2006 – Turin – Neve and Gliz – A snowball and ice cube
Alright, much, much better. After several crap-tacular mascots in a row, the Italians got it right. How can you not love Neve and Gliz? They’re unabashedly happy, have huge round faces, and remind people of:
Which brings us to…
2010 – Vancouver – Miga, Quatchi and Mukmuk – Mythical sea bear, sasquatch and Vancouver Island marmot
Yes, they’re adorable. Yes, they’re well-done. Yes, they’re representative of Native Canadian culture on the Left Coast. No way that’s politically motivated. NO. Freaking. WAY.
And yes, they do look like Pokémon.
I’ll do the Summer Olympics mascots soon.