Rejected articles. They’re an unpleasant drawback that comes with trying to make a living as a freelance writer. For reasons ranging from miscommunication to tight deadlines to a million other reasons, or some combination thereof, every once in a while an article will slip through the cracks and get nixed entirely. This puts a freelancer in the tough spot of trying to find another home for their scorned work before its expiration date passes, lest they lose out on several hours, or even days, of pay. The following is one such example. This poor thing may as well be an unwanted Christmas tree at 8 PM on Christmas Eve. With no place else to send this article and with interest in all things Olympics quickly waning (the Closing Ceremonies for the London games are this Sunday), I’ve decided to make a home for this lil’ orphan here. Please, enjoy.
Some were cute. Some were weird. Some were totally forgettable. Here’s a list of every Olympics mascot ever.
Schuss – 1968 Winter Olympics (Grenoble, France)
Named for a form of high-speed, downhill skiing, Schuss was the first Olympic mascot, although his claim to the title is dubious. The games didn’t officially begin endorsing mascots until 1972. Schuss was a strange, stylized skier with a red, bulbous head and the five Olympics rings imprinted over his eyes.
El Jaguar Rojo de Chichen-Itza – 1968 Summer Olympics (Mexico City, Mexico)
Another “unofficial” mascot. El Jaguar Rojo (AKA “The Red Jaguar”) was based on a throne that can be found inside the El Castillo pyramid in the Mexican state of Yucatán.
Waldi – 1972 Summer Olympics (Munich, Germany)
This adorable, multi-colored dachshund served as the Olympics’ first official mascot. Created by German designer Otl Aicher, Waldi represented the skills required by top athletes: resistance, tenacity and agility. While a marathon route through Munich was created to resemble the pooch’s body, he also became a symbol for the bloated budget of the ’72 games. When the bill hit $750 million, unofficial posters of Waldi piddling on the Olympic Tower ala a fire hydrant began popping up all over the city.
Schneemann – 1976 Winter Olympics (Innsbruck, Austria)
The first official mascot of the Winter Olympics. Schneemann was a doughy snowman with a red, brimmed hat. His name, unsurprisingly, means “snowman” in German.
Amik – 1976 Summer Olympics (Montreal, Canada)
Organizers of the Montreal games picked a beaver as a mascot because of the critter’s hard-working nature and its role in the “taming” of the Great White North. Amik means “beaver” in Anishinaabe, the language of a Native American tribe in eastern Canada. Alas, Amik was a bit boring as far as Olympic mascots go. He was just a generic beaver with a red sash.
Roni – 1980 Winter Olympics (Lake Placid, New York)
After the games’ initial mascot, a live raccoon named Rocky, died, organizers scrambled for a replacement. They came up with Roni, a cartoon raccoon dressed in a blue jumpsuit who loved ice skating. He was named for the Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York.
Misha – 1980 Summer Olympics (Moscow, U.S.S.R)
Designed by children’s books illustrator Victor Chizhikov, Misha became one of the most beloved Olympics mascots of all time. The bear cub and his iconic belt, which bore a golden buckle shaped like the Olympics rings, inspired tons of merchandise ranging from plush dolls to pins and cookies. He appeared in a Russian cartoon show and his popularity continued after the games concluded. In 1988, he “met” Mickey Mouse during the rodent’s first official public appearance east of the Iron Curtain. Actors in Mickey and Misha costumes were photographed together in Red Square. During a ceremony before a screening of Fantasia at Moscow’s Rossia Theater, the bear gave the rodent a keg of honey as a sign of international diplomacy. A few years later, the Soviet Union dissolved. Coincidence?
Vucko – 1984 Winter Olympics (Sarajevo, Yugoslavia)
Vucko (AKA “Little Wolf”) was picked in a contest from a list of six potential mascots. The losers: a chipmunk, a lamb, a mountain goat, a porcupine and a snowball. Created by Slovenian illustrator Jože Trobec, Vukco symbolized the efforts of humans to befriend animals and was designed to help change the perception among locals that Yugoslavia’s native population of wolves were blood-thirsty monsters.
Sam – 1984 Summer Olympics (Los Angeles, United States)
Created by Disney artist C. Robert Moore, Sam was a bald eagle who bore a “Stars and Stripes” top hat similar to the one favored by his namesake, Uncle Sam. Strangely enough, he was also the star of a 51-episode Japanese anime series that ran on the Tokyo Broadcasting System in the year leading up to the games. Known on the show as “Eagle Sam,” he and two youngsters went on adventures around the world with the aid of a magical dune buggy.
Hidi and Howdy – 1988 Winter Olympics (Calgary, Canada)
The names of these twin polar bears were chosen from nearly 7,000 entries in a contest organized by the Calgary Zoo. Dressed in blue outfits and white cowboy hats, the duo were inspired by the city’s annual rodeo, the Calgary Stampede. They were retired after the games but had a cameo in the 1993 comedy Cool Runnings, which focused on the infamous ‘88 Jamaican bobsled team.
Hodori and Hosuni – 1988 Summer Olympics (Seoul, South Korea)
Based on a local legend, these two tigers bore a striking resemblance to a certain “grrreat!” spokes-cat for Frosted Flakes. They helped portray the hospitable traditions of the Korean people. Oddly enough, Hosuni, the female tiger, was seldom used in promotional material.
Magique – 1992 Winter Olympics (Albertville, France)
Olympic organizers picked a mountain goat mascot named “Chamois” before deciding that he was “unlikable.” They replaced him with a far stranger and even more unappealing character named Magique, a star-shaped “snow imp” who wore a red hat that resembled a fez. He’s now considered one of the least popular mascots in the games’ history.
Cobi – 1992 Summer Olympics (Barcelona, Spain)
This Catalonian sheepdog was drawn in the Cubist style, a nod to painter Pablo Picasso, and his name was taken from the Barcelona Olympic Organising Committee (COOB). Cobi appeared in advertisements for Coca Cola, Brother Industries and other Olympic sponsors. A giant, inflatable version of the dog popped up on the Barcelona waterfront during the games. He also landed his own cartoon show, The Cobi Troupe, which ran for a season on Spanish television.
Håkon and Kristin – 1994 Winter Olympics (Lillehammer, Norway)
These two dolls were characters taken from Norwegian folklore. In the lead-up to the games, Olympics organizers hired local children to portray the duo in promotions.
Izzy – 1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta, United States)
Originally called “Whatizit?,” Izzy was the first computer-generated mascot…and one of the Olympics’ least popular to date. The amorphous, blob-like critter supposedly possessed the ability to shape-shift but that didn’t endear him to critics who called him everything from “Post Chernobyl Navel Lint” to “Quasi-smurf.” Time Magazine went so far as to describe him as “a sperm in sneakers.” Despite the mockery, Izzy managed to become the star of an animated special that aired on the TNT network and his own video game.
The Snowlets – 1998 Winter Olympics (Nagano, Japan)
After organizers tossed aside the original mascot, a weasel named Snowple, they went with these four owls. Dubbed Sukki, Nokki, Lekki and Tsukki, each was named for one of the four islands that comprise Japan. Together, their names phonetically create the word “Snowlets.”
Olly, Syd and Millie – 2000 Summer Olympics (Sydney, Australia)
A trio of native Aussie critters (a Kookaburra bird, a platypus and an Echidna anteater respectively) bore names that were abbreviated forms of “Olympics,” “Sydney” and “Millennium.”
Powder, Copper and Coal – 2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City, United States)
Another animal trio, each represented one of Utah’s main natural resources and were inspired by local Native American legends. Powder, a snowshoe hare, was named for the state’s abundance of snow. As for Copper, a coyote, and Coal, an American Black Bear, you can probably figure those two out on our own. Each of the mascots wore a charm around their neck with a petroglyph symbol to remind them of their heritage.
Athena and Phevos – 2004 Summer Olympics (Athens, Greece)
The designs of this brother and sister duo were based on a Greek “daidala” dating back to 700 BC. As for their namesakes, Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom and the protector of Athens and Phevos is the Greek god of music and light. Local groups devoted to ancient Greek culture were outraged by them, whom organizers described as “dolls” in press materials. They criticized the mascots in interviews with the international press. Daidalas were once considered sacred religious icons and these organizations considered their use in the games blasphemous.
Neve and Gliz – 2006 Winter Olympics (Turin, Italy)
Neve, Italian for “snow,” was a humanized female snowball who represented “softness, friendship and elegance.” Her companion Glitz (short for “ghiaccio,” which means ice), embodied “enthusiasm and joy” and was a walking ice cube.
The Fuwa – 2008 Summer Olympics (Beijing, China)
These five creatures, each of whom represented one of the Olympics rings AND a Feng Shui element AND a land mass AND a sport AND… (I’ll stop here), were as bombastic as the unforgettable Opening Ceremonies for the ’08 games. Beibei (a fish), Jingjing (a panda), Huanhuan (a fireball), Yingying (an antelope) and Nini (a swallow) all came with an elaborate back story. They appeared in both a video game and a 100-episode cartoon series in China called The Olympic Adventures of Fuwa. They were also the subject of superstition and controversy during the lead-up to the games. Local bloggers were censored by the Chinese government for calling the mascots “Wuwa” (witch dolls) and blaming them for everything from a Mongolian locust plague to the 2008 South China floods. 72-year-old artist Han Meilin, who created the Fuwa, also suffered two heart attacks during the design process, which only further fueled speculation that the mascots carried a terrible curse.
Sumi, Quatchi and Miga – 2010 Winter Olympics (Vancouver, Canada)
This threesome (see above) was based on various mythical animals with roots in the local legends of British Columbia. Going along with the increasingly complex design work of Olympic mascots, each had their own biographies. Miga was a mythical sea bear, part orca and part kermode bear, who lived to surf and snowboard. Quatchi, a Sasquatch, wore blue earmuffs, loved to travel and dreamed of becoming a hockey goalie. Sumi, an animal guardian spirit with the wings of a thunderbird and the legs of a bear, was a devoted environmentalist. If that wasn’t enough, there was also an unofficial fourth “sidekick mascot” named Mukmuk. The marmot, who’s name came from a local Native American word meaning “eat,” had, you guessed it, a large appetite.
Wenlock, 2012 Summer Olympics (London, UK)
Another odd creature along the lines of Izzy, Wenlock was an anthropomorphic, one-eyed drop of steel “created” in a steelworks factory in Bolton, England. He also came covered in enough symbolism to keep an entire lecture hall of English Lit majors busy for months. Wenlock wore five friendship bracelets on his wrists, each representing one of the Olympic rings. Three points located on his forehead were emblematic of the three spots on the podium during the Olympics’ medal ceremonies. Meanwhile, his head was shaped like the roof of the Games’ stadium while the pattern on his torso symbolized the entire planet gathering together in London. Wenlock, along with Mandeville, the mascot for the 2012 Paralympics, appeared in comic strips and animated shorts but were roundly criticized in the British media in the months leading up to the Opening Ceremonies. A columnist for the UK publication The Globe and Mail described them as resembling the offspring of a “drunken, one-night stand between a Teletubby and a Dalek.” Ouch.