7 Regrettable Olympic Mascots: What Were They Thinking? (Slideshow)

Apparently plush toys of Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, are already in the bargain bin at a steep discount. It just isn’t so easy to warm up to Cyclopean beings who have been described as the progeny of ”a drunken one-night stand between a Teletubby and a Dalek.”

Harrison Mooney goes a bit further in the Guardian:

These phallic bugbears fitted out in foppish puffery are by far the worst mascots of any Olympics, and I say this while trying to suppress my memories of Atlanta’s amorphous blob Whatzit (later renamed Izzy), which ushered in the trend of using no creative effort whatsoever on mascot design. Britain has brought this trend to its logical conclusion.

Now, mascots are a mere accessory of the Olympic Games, a cheap merchandising tactic, and they’re almost always terrible. … Britain has somehow managed to take a relatively unimportant aspect of the Olympic Games and turn it into an unforgettable and indelible full-scale embarrassment. The release of these creatures on its own should have been enough to know Britain is unfit to host the Games.

Or as Mark Sinclair, deputy editor of London design magazine, Creative Review, told CNN, the mascots are “kind of severe looking” and “missing a little bit of soul.”

Michael Mopurgo, author of War Horse, was brought in to create a story behind Wenlock and Mandeville. As this goes, the pair were made from the last drops of steel from the last support girder made for the Olympic stadium and are named for Much Wenlock, a village whose 19th century Wenlock games were an inspiration for the modern Olympics and Stoke Mandeville, where there was a hospital that treated soldiers with spinal cord injuries.

Wenlock’s and Mandeville’s eyes are supposed to enable them to “record everything.” They also sport taxi lights and particular head-shapes to refer to the shape of the Olympic medals and a helmet. All very well, but all the thought the Iris agency (which designed the mascots) mustered has produced some things with limited (if any) appeal for the target audience, children.

Murray recalls that British literature has given us Paddington, Winnie and other beloved, cuddly, icons. Instead, the London Olympics has anthropomorphic “walking, talking shard[s] of metal” that, writes Angus Hyland on Computer Arts, ”appear thoroughly dehumanised,” a real “shame considering the Olympics is supposed to represent the best in human endeavour and character.”

LOCOG, the private organization running the Olympics, was hoping to make £70 million from merchandising these?

To put Wenlock and Mandeville into a bit of context, here are seven other curious, maybe cute and possibly creepy mascots.

1. Izzy: Atlanta 1996

Mascot Izzy

I must start with the worst. The name Izzy is said to be taken from “Whatizit?”, people’s response to the blob-thing (others had far less kind words including Time Magazine’s “a sperm in sneakers”) that was the 1996 Olympic mascot.


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

2. Schuss: Grenoble 1968

Maskottchen schuss

Supposed to be a little man on skis with his red ball of a head and blue squiggle body, Schuss was dubbed (premonitions of Izzy) “The Skiing Sperm.”


Photo by Aline Lafargue via Wikimedia Commons

3. Amik: Montréal 1976

Mascotte JO 1976 Amik

The black beaver has the regrettable distinction of being dubbed the least-loved in Olympic mascot history and has been described as “flattened roadkill, a bad mullet haircut and a derogatory hand gesture.”


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

4. Magique “the Snow Imp”: Albertville 1992

Lutin by godo

Magique, a star-shaped figure sporting a red gnome’s cap and a full-body snowsuit was actually a runner-up to Chamois, a mountain goat. Always go with your first hunch?

Photo of a “lutin” (hobgobblin) that Magique may have been modeled after via Wikimedia Commons

5. Snowlets: Nagano 1998

Are the Winter Olympics jinxed with unfortunate mascots? The Japanese public rejected the original candidate, “Snowpie,” a snow weasel, and ended up with Sukki, Nokki, Lekki, and Tsukki who lack both snow and owlishness.

Video of a snowlets dance uploaded by Ikarus361 via YouTube

6. Neve and Gliz: Turin 2006

Neve & Gliz

A humanized snowball and ice cube: Not the worst (I guess) but that toothy grin? “One fears what the losing candidates looked like,” Time magazine commented.


Photo by tanky65 via Flickr

7. Athena and Phevos: Athens 2008

163/366 Memories of Athens 2004

Athena and Phevos were supposed to be a sister and brother based on ancient Greek dolls. They were not warmly received, being described as  ”animated condoms and mutants from a nuclear meltdown.” The Societas Hellenica Antiquariorum even sued over the mascots, describing them as a “savage insult” to ancient Greek culture.

But what if the mascot had been a mythological creature, Pegasus the winged horse or Argos, the faithful dog of Odysseus who is so overjoyed to see his master, gone for twenty years, that he expires on seeing him return to Ithaca?


Photo by Danny Nicholson via Flickr

Next: Why the mascots for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, 2014, have already stoked controversy.

Stamps of Russia 2012 No 1559-61 Mascots 2014 Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics 2014 will be held in Sochi, Russia. The mascots are animals, Bely Mishka (a polar bear), a leopard and Zaika (the doe hare) and have already stoked controversy including fears that the voting process was rigged as President Vladimir Putin supposedly favored the leopard and accusations of plagiarism from Viktor Chizhikov, the designer of the 1980 Moscow Games’s popular Misha the bear.

This business of Olympic mascots is getting just too political, to say the least.


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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Alex Lituchy

Haha this is amusing.

Berny p.
Berny p.3 years ago

YOU might not like them......or want to write an article about it because you have nothing to do....but many 1000 have bought them.....
so what matters is that THEY like it and thought they where fun...so WHO is smiling????

Arild Warud
Arild Warud3 years ago


stephanie l.
Steph l.3 years ago


Brian Steele
Brian Steele3 years ago

FYI, Stoke Mandeville isn't just a hospital that used to treat injured soldiers: it is one of the premier treatment centres for spinal injuries in the world and it was responsible for the effective founding of the Paralympics alongside the London 1948 Olympics.

As for the mascots, well they are a national embarrassment. Actually my kids still have their mascots from Vancouver 2010 and they were quite cute, but I am glad to say that I was blissfully unaware before today that there had ever been mascots before that.

Much worse than the mascots is the 2012 logo. Once you have seen it, you can never look at Lisa Simpson in the same way again. And they paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to come up with these designs!

annie s.
annie statton3 years ago

Haven't seen them before or any of the Olympics -----managed to avoid the whole shebang !!!!!

Fran F.
Fran F.3 years ago

Considering how nothing these things are, I think the Olympics should get rid of mascots altogether.

Mark M.
Mark M.3 years ago

Izzy ~A Sperm in sneakers.. LMAO!!

Raul O.
Raul O.3 years ago

I don't think it's really natural.

Elaine A.
Elaine Al Meqdad3 years ago

What were they thinking??? They were not!