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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Well, "Patronising rubbish" may be a bit much.

“Lord Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic games, defended the mascots, saying they would inspire young people to engage with sport.”

People, relax. Going back to 1968, the Olympics have had more than a few mascots you wanted to punch in the face. I’m guessing London agency Iris was going less for polarizing and more for *uniting* though. Something sufficiently generic enough so as to speak to people from all walks of life, ammirite?

Besides, shouldn’t the supposed 40 focus groups they used have been able to make anything safe?

Wenlock and Mandeville are named Much Wenlock in Shropshire, UK (host site of the precursor to the modern Olympic games), and Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire, UK (the birthplace of the Paralympic Games). Hard to hate on the good intentions behind recognizing paralympians, so I won’t.

Regardless, both figures seem to now have picked up the baton of hate dropped with the introduction of that now infamous 2012 logo three years ago.

On a personal level, the idea of having to sell a global event occurring in effect every two years like you’re selling minor league baseball hits me the wrong way. Sure, marketing has taken over most if not all sports, but there was at least an illusion that you watched the Olympics for the sports–not the logos or costumes. (Figure skating notwithstanding.)

From the perspective of the officials and their goal however: “They are perfect for us because they are perfect for the digital age, and we’re really hopeful that they will chime with children.” They probably will, on Twitter and Facebook and everywhere else they have planned.

This highlights the divide between those kids living la vida digital and those who actually go out and play sports. Again, not to single out Iris here; the Olympics have a history of amorphous global icons. But if the goal is participation in real sports, kids need to unplug.

They identify with the uniforms of their respective countries and the idea of nationalism first, not because the Teletubbies say so. (Didn’t we first watch the Olympics with our parents, maybe even chanting USA! USA! USA!)

I might be wrong, but it just seems no costume figure will get kids playing sports the way their parents will. It would also seem that the way to do that is by appealing to grown-ups as much as the kids.

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