In the land of the Olympic mascots, the first inhabitant was a dachshund. In Munich in 1972, “Waldi” became the first plush associated with the Summer Games. The shape of this dachshund, a popular breed of dog in Bavaria, corresponded to the course of the marathon, according to the book The Olympic Marathon. Four years earlier, the Grenoble Winter Games had presented “Shuss” well, but at the time, this little man on skis was referred to by the term “character” rather than “mascot”.
After “Amik” the beaver in Montreal (1976), Mikhail Potapych Toptygin, alias “Misha”, is the bear who brightened up the Moscow Games in 1980. Equipped with a belt in the color of the rings, he was chosen from the 60 versions of mascots proposed for the event. “Misha” is unique in that he was sent into space aboard the “Soyuz” rocket, two years before the Olympics.
“Sam” looks like Uncle Sam. The Los Angeles Games mascot (1984) could also have been a bear, California’s favorite animal, but the United States preferred an eagle, so as not to mimic Moscow in the middle of the Cold War. “Sam” wore a Stars and Stripes hat and paid homage to the bronze eagle, which greeted the winner of the race in the stadium during the Ancient Games. He will be followed by the tiger “Hodori” in Seoul in 1988.
Detour via France, where the Albertville Winter Games in 1992. “Magic” was a star-shaped pixie. For the first time since 1976, the mascot did not take on an animal form. In the same year, the dog “Cobi” was born in Barcelona. Four years later, Atlanta tried and failed at first. Crossed out after its first presentation in Barcelona, ”Whatizit” was then renamed “Izzy” by children in Atlanta. The American mascot represents neither an animal nor a human but a kind of small blue character carrying an Olympic flame.
Vinicius and Footix
For the new millennium, the Sydney Olympics saw threefold, with “Side” the platypus, “Olly” the giant kingfisher and “Millie” the anteater. In 2004, Athens brought back memories of ancient Greece with ‘Phevos’ and ‘Athena’, two moderately successful characters meant to represent brotherhood, equality and sportsmanship.
“Welcome to Beijing. This is what the linking of the five names of the mascots means: Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini. In order, the fish, the panda, the child of fire, the Tibetan antelope and the swallow represented the five natural elements during the 2008 Olympics.
In 2012, if “Wenlock” was a little scary, his name was thoughtful. The traditional Games of Much Wenlock (England) had inspired Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Games. 84 sculptures of this Cyclops – and “Mandeville”, the Paralympic mascot – have decorated the streets of London to guide tourists. To Rio Games (2016)“Vinicius” did not pay homage to the Seleçao winger but to the poet Vinicius de Moraes.
Finally, Tokyo 2020 dressed in a futuristic “Miraitowa” (future and eternity) style while crossing it out with the traditional chessboard motif, with indigo blue rectangles. This Monday, it’s Paris’s turn to unveil its mascot. We don’t know if we want him to equal “Footix”, the cock of the 1998 World Cup, who made an impression but whose name has become synonymous with mockery for football fans.
Olympic Games: from “Waldi” to “Miraitowa”, the history of mascots since 1972 before that of Paris 2024