Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Puff, Puff, Pass ... On Olympic Mascots


Olympic mascots are getting too complicated.

Gone are the days of "easy" Olympic marketing to kids. Who can forget Sam the Olympic Eagle of 1984, flapping his wings and pecking with his over sized, Big Bird-yellow beak? He was simple. All American. Easy to "get it" that he was a patriotic symbol of LA84. Perfect!

Apparently, his likeness continues to appear in Japanese animation almost 30 years post-Games, indicative of staying power not often enjoyed by mascots of the five-ringed variety.

My earliest Games mascot memory is actually Sam's winter Olympic cousin, Roni the Raccoon of Lake Placid, N.Y. I have vivid memories of shopping with mom at the drug store during first grade winter months, selecting a giant coloring book filled with images of Roni donning winter sports gear, ready to be filled with Crayon wax while watching ABC Sports.

Roni, too, was simple. Two dimensional. One of the good mascots.

Somewhere along the way -- I think with Barcelona's 1992 Cobi (a mascot to love, by an artist who is now among my favorites), or perhaps with Atlanta's "Jimmy Carter sperm" mascot, IZZY (terrible) -- when Olympic mascots got off track. WAY off track. Then they mutated and multiplied, and some host city selection teams even looked to other worlds for inspiration (remember Neve and Gliz from Torino?).

My brain is still processing those "things" they selected as London's Olympic icons.

When I looked tonight at Sochi's trio of Winter Olympic mascots, my head was shaking. What psychotropic drug did they take to come up with the back stories for the hare, bear and snow leopard? A few thoughts:

For the creators of "The Leopard" it may have been LSD. How else would they take this lovely big cat from a mountaintop tree and set him (or her? or it?) on a makeshift snowboard to warn nearby villagers of an approaching avalanche by banging a large stone on a church bell?

Next, put this one under your tongue: For "The Hare" methinks the meds of choice may have been Ecstasy given the creature's manic pace, as detailed in the Sochi.ru video introducing this character as a figure skater and family restaurant employee. Huh? (He, she or it also plays guitar like Forrest Gump's girlfriend, Jenny, on a stool before summoning the fire department much like "Lassie" in any rescue situation.)

It may have just been some weed or good shrooms that inspired the Sochi team's morphing of Russia's 1980 bear mascot Misha into a North Pole-based polar bear (there is a facial resemblance, sort of, for the 2014 mascot "The Polar Bear"). This guy was rescued from a chunk of glacier that broke off and floated to sea. Raised by scientists/humans on a ship, he later learned sledding sports. Oh, and he carries a cell phone.

All of the Sochi mascots carry a cell phone -- WTF!?!

The cell phone for the bear is ringing now (in my head ... sans shrooms). It's the Charmin bears calling wanting a rewrite to the story their creators shat.

Well, on the plus side, the Sochi Olympic site includes a clever "Mascot Home" page featuring the aforementioned characters, as well as their other-worldly Paralympic mascot cousins (don't get me started) and handy links to the history of other summer and winter Games critters. I liked the recycling/green message, and the videos are of "high" quality (thank you, double-entendres).

What or who is your favorite Olympic mascot? And your least favorite? And which do you remember as your "first" Olympic mascot?

Images via Sochi.ru

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

See You In Sochi In C Days

One hundred (a.k.a. C) days to Sochi hardly seems possible.

After a challenging year (still in progress) including elder care duties with family and many interesting freelance P.R. client projects, the pre-Games milestone for Russia's Winter Olympiad didn't exactly sneak up on me, but it does enforce some urgency to lock in travel details to get to the host city.

Plans are going alright, though at a Siberian glacial pace. Found a hotel for opening ceremonies eve (and booked it!), and soon my purchase of a state room aboard an Adler-docked cruise ship will be complete. That leaves the Super Bowl Sunday flight (via Frankfurt), ground transportation and a mobile device as the remaining "travel to do's" for Sochi. Happy to report I will be there.

Will you? Who among readers is going to Sochi, and what were the biggest surprises and challenges of your travel planning so far? (I might just send an Olympic blog pin to someone who posts an answer via comments.)

As was the case with Torino in 2006, my brain's been lukewarm to the whole lead up to Sochi. It's surprising the Olympic security story lines did not resonate more in media and conversations of recent months, trumped by the Russian law banter as the "controversy d'Olympiade" drummed with about the same six-months-out timing as human rights for Beijing, security for Athens, homeless rights for Vancouverites, etc.

The good news is that the global public discourse about Russia's policies may emerge as a positive turning point (five, 10 or 20 years from now, hopefully things will be better as a result of recent protests and such). Thank goodness the Games will go on sans boycott.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Team USA Olympic Media Summit in Park City, Utah, to visit with many Sochi Olympic hopefuls and to learn about winter Olympic training underway at many venues across the USA and around the world.

During the next 100 days, I'll strive to post daily some of the athlete photos and stories learned at the Summit, and to delve into Sochi Olympic sponsor activation, observations on Olympic public relations (good or otherwise) and Olympic travel or Sochi Cultural Olympiad items in the news.

I'm most excited to witness the debut of women's Olympic ski jump and the combine male/female team events (ticket leads are appreciated).

The Sochi Olympic Torch Relay now underway is also very interesting as the largest single-nation relay in history, almost taking the flame to the moon and back (they reached the North Pole a few days ago, as I understand it, and the notion of the Torch aglow under the Northern Lights is inspiring).

What do you want to see and learn through this Olympic blog? Share via comments and I'll see what I can do.

C U in Sochi!

Screen grab image via OMEGA Watches; North Pole photo via Sochi.ru

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