Wacky Olympic Mascots Over Time (Photos)

The symbol of this year’s games is the latest in a rich tradition of quirky mascots.

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Getty for LOCOG; AFP/Getty; IOC

The symbol of this year’s Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia is the latest in a rich tradition of quirky mascots. From tigers and bears to beavers and dolls, see more from 40 years' worth of Olympics. 

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1972 Munich Summer Games: Waldi

Waldi, the first-ever official Olympic mascot, was based on a real-life German dachshund named Fritz (seen here looking very world-weary while he poses with his toy likenesses). Waldi went over big that year: the marathon track was designed in the shape of the popular Bavarian dog. 

AP Photo

1976 Innsbruck Winter Games: Schneemann

The first mascot for the Winter Olympics, held in Innsbruck, Austria, was a stylized schneemann (German for snowman). The mascot, chosen to represent the "Games of Simplicity," was made even friendlier by his jaunty traditional hat.


1976 Montreal Summer Games: Amik

Like Schneemann, Amik has a name that just describes what he is—amik means "beaver" in the Anishinaabe language. Native to Canada, the beaver was chosen to represent the Games because of its reputation for hard work.


1980 Lake Placid Winter Games: Roni

Roni the Raccoon was named for the Adirondack range. The name was also conveniently close to "Rocky," the name of the event's first mascot, a live raccoon that died before the Games. To reflect the sports of the Winter Olympics, Roni wore ice skates, and the designs on his face represented the goggles many athletes wear.

AP Photo

1980 Moscow Summer Games: Misha

Designed by children's book illustrator Victor Chizhikov, Misha the bear cub wore a multicolored belt with a buckle shaped like the Olympic rings. He was the result of a nationwide contest for the best illustration of a bear, a symbol of the Soviet Union.

AP Photo

1984 Sarajevo Winter Games: Vučko

Vučko the Wolf was also chosen by contest, beating out a chipmunk, a lamb, a mountain goat, a porcupine, and a snowball. Tough competition! Readers of newspapers across Yugoslavia voted on their favorite, and soon enough the red-nosed wolf was ready to visit the opening ceremonies.

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1984 Los Angeles Summer Games: Sam

Of course, the first American summer Olympic mascot was named for Uncle Sam. Designed by an artist for Disney, Sam the Eagle is still hard at work: he shows up every year at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays track and field event.

AP Photo / IOC

1988 Calgary Winter Games: Hidy and Howdy

The Calgary Zoo sponsored a contest to name these two Western-themed polar bears, eventually dubbing them Hidy and Howdy after sifting through 7,000 entries. Though the twin bears have retired from public life, they did make a cameo appearance in the classic Winter Olympics movie Cool Runnings.

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1988 Seoul Summer Games: Hodori

A Siberian tiger, Hodori's name is derived from horangi, the Korean word for "tiger." That hat also has special cultural significance: it's a sangmo hat used in a traditional Korean dance that involves performers swinging their heads to make the ribbons on their hats move. But it seems that Hodori's was just for decoration.


1992 Albertville Winter Games: Magique

Originally, the mascot for these Olympics was Chamois the Mountain Goat, but he eventually lost out to Magique the Snow Imp. Chosen to represent "dreams and imagination", Magique now regularly appears on lists of the worst Olympic mascots

Amicar de Leon / AP Photo

1992 Barcelona Summer Games: Cobi

Cobi was a Catalan sheepdog, a breed native to Spain, and was designed in a Cubist style to pay tribute to the country's most famous artist, Pablo Picasso. His name was taken from the Barcelona Olympic Organizing Committee (in Spanish, COOB), and he proved to be so popular that he appeared in advertisements for Coca-Cola and, like a few other mascots, his own television show.

Michel Euler / AP Photo

1994 Lillehammer Winter Games: Håkon and Kristin

Håkon and Kristin are medieval figures from Norwegian history, which explains their Viking attire. However, rather than accurately representing their mascots' bloody history, the Olympic organizers instead decided to make them kid-friendly. In fact, three boys and three girls were chosen from a pool of 150 to portray the characters at publicity events for the two years leading up to the Games.

Luca Bruno / AP Photo

1996 Atlanta Summer Games: Izzy

When Izzy was first introduced, his name was, quite understandably, Whatizit. Designed with children in mind, he was a creature who could morph into different shapes, made possible by the fact that he was the first mascot to be computer-animated. Unfortunately, he did not prove as popular with adults, and Izzy-bashing became a popular pasttime

Eric Draper / AP Photo

1998 Nagano Winter Games: Sukki, Nokki, Lekki, and Tsukki

These four snow owls were chosen to represent the four major islands of Japan. But the symbolism doesn't end there! They also represent the four seasons, and if the first syllable of all the owlets' names are combined, they form the word "snowlets." Unfortunately, not enough mascot souvenirs were made, and by the second week of the Games the smallest mention of the word "snowlet" was enough to start a stampede for the gift shop.

William West, AFP / Getty Images

2000 Sydney Summer Games: Olly, Syd, and Millie

The three Sydney mascots were all based on Australian animals and named for aspects of the Games, giving the world Olly ("Olympic") the Kookaburra, Syd ("Sydney") the Platypus, and Millie ("Millennium") the Echidna.

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2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games: Powder, Copper, and Coal

These three animals, all native to Utah, each play a major role in Native American myths. On top of that, each was chosen because its role symbolizes one word of the Olympic motto: Powder the Snowshoe Hare is swifter, Copper the Coyote is higher, and Coal the Black Bear is stronger. The animals' names add yet another layer of symbolism, as each represents one of Utah's key natural resources.

Michael Sohn / AP Photo

2004 Athens Summer Olympics: Athena and Phevos

These young, modern siblings had names chosen to represent idealistic values tied to the Olympics: Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom and patron of the city of Athens, while Phevos (a nickname for Apollo) was the god of light and music. They were modeled on religious dolls from ancient Greece, hence their off-kilter appearance. As shown here, the siblings got a kick out of participating in the sports themselves. 

Giuseppe Cacace, AFP / Getty Images

2006 Turin Winter Olympics: Neve and Gliz

This anthropomorphized snowball and ice cube were the result of an international design contest won not by an Italian, but by a Portuguese designer named Pedro Albuquerque. Chosen to represent, collectively, friendship, joy, enthusiasm, and elegance, their names made it clear that the main Winter Olympic values they represented were snow (neve) and ice (ghiaccio, or Gliz for short).

Greg Baker / AP Photo

2008 Beijing Summer Olympics: Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini

Collectively called the fuwa ("good luck dolls"), these five mascots are saddled with layer upon layer of symbolism. The first syllables of their names, when put together in the right order, write out "Beijing welcomes you", and each character is colored like one of the Olympic rings. Each character is also tied to a feng shui element, an area of sport, a traditional Chinese blessing, and several symbols of China and the Olympics. Quite a lot for such little dolls.

Michael Kappeler, AFP / Getty Images

2010 Vancouver Winter Games: Miga, Quatchi, Sumi, and Mukmuk

The three "main" mascots of the Vancouver Olympics were creatures from indigenous Canadian mythology: Miga was a sea bear (part bear, part orca), Sumi was an animal guardian spirit, and Quatchi was, of course, a sasquatch. But in a break from tradition, the mascots also had a sidekick. Named Mukmuk, he was a Vancouver Island marmot (a real endangered species) in a cute little hat, and he gained such popularity that he even inspired a protest to promote him to full mascot status. 

Julian Finney / Getty Images for LOCOG

2012 London Summer Games: Wenlock and Mandeville

This year's mascots land on the more unusual end of the spectrum, as Wenlock and Mandeville, named for British cities that have hosted Olympic forerunners, are anthropomorphized drops of steel from a steelworks in Bolton, England. According to their biographies, they were formed from the last girder of the Olympic stadium, and they're so shiny they are even able to reflect others' personalities. Creepy.

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2014 Sochi Winter Games

Members of the Swedish delegation pose next to a mascot during the welcoming ceremonies on February 5 at the Amphitheatre Square.