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SALT LAKE CITY — Olympic mascots throughout history have been both revered and ridiculed, some to be forgotten soon after the closing ceremony, and others to be remembered long after the games' end, whether adoringly or mockingly so.
A look at the top five most significant — and insignificant — Olympic mascots, in chronological order:
- Vucko, 1984 Winter Olympics, Sarajevo, YugoslaviaVucko was a wolf cub voted into official mascot status via a poll conducted by Yugoslavian newspapers in which he received 70 percent of the vote. The mascot became ubiquitous throughout the country and helped change the perception in the region of the wolf as a frightening animal. "Grandparents used to tell stories of the wolves in the mountains around Sarajevo to scare children," a city official said at the time. "Now, they fall asleep with Vucko in their arms. There isn't a child without one."
- Sam, 1984 Summer Olympics, Los AngelesSam the Olympic Eagle represented both the bald eagle — the national bird of the U.S. — and the national personification of the American government: Uncle Sam. The mascot was designed by Disney artist Bob Moore. The character starred in a Japanese animated series in the year leading up to the Olympics, and remains in use today to promote track and field events at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, a Los Angeles suburb.
- Hodori, 1988 Summer Olympics, Seoul, South KoreaHodori was an Amur Tiger chosen to represent the friendly and hospitable traditions and vigorous spirit of the Korean people. The name, loosely translated to "boy tiger," was chosen from thousands of suggestions sent in to the naming committee. The tiger wore a traditional sangmo hat of a Korean farmband player and the Olympic rings around its neck. The mascot is used today as the symbol of the Korean Tae-Kwon-Do National Demonstration Team.
- Athena and Phevos, 2004 Summer Olympics, Athens, GreeceAthena and Phevos were chosen as mascots for the first Olympic Games to be held in Greece since the country hosted the first modern games in 1896. The sister and brother, whose design was inspired by ancient Greek dolls, were named after the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, strategy and war, and the ancient Greek god of light and music, respectively. The Olympic Organizing Committee said at the time "their creation was inspired by an ancient Greek doll and their names are linked to ancient Greece, yet the two siblings are children of modern times — Phevos and Athena represent the link between Greek history and the modern Olympic Games."
- Powder, Copper and Coal, 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City
The three mascots of the 2002 Winter Olympics, a snowshoe hare, a coyote and an American black bear, represented three animals from Native American legend. Each animal's story symbolized one part of the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius — or Swifter, Higher, Stronger.
The animals were all indigenous to Utah and were named for natural resources important to the state's economy. Each wore a petroglyph necklace around its neck to symbolize its heritage.
Top 5 most insignificant mascots:
- Schuss, 1968 Winter Olympics, Grenoble, FranceSchuss was the unofficial mascot of the Grenoble Olympics. The character resembled a half-red ball perched on a skiing lightning bolt and did little to kick off the Olympic mascot tradition with style.
- Amik, 1976 Summer Olympics, Montreal, CanadaAmik, a beaver, was chosen because it is native to Canada and represents hard work. The animal is one of Canada's oldest and most well-known symbols, but Amik has been one of the least favorite — and boring — Olympic mascots to date.
- Izzy, 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta, GeorgiaIzzy was the first official mascot that was completely unidentifiable. It was named Whatizit, and indeed, it represented no obvious part of American culture. It was just weird and wildly unpopular.
- Neve and Gliz, 2006 Winter Olympics, Torino, ItalyNeve and Gliz were a personified snowball and ice cube, unique to Italy and every other place in the world that sees freezing temperatures. They were chosen from 237 entries, leaving one to wonder what the losing entries looked like.
- Wenlock and Mandeville, 2012 Summer Olympics, LondonFormed from drops of steel and with camera lenses instead of facial features, Wenlock and Mandeville are more creepy than cute. Although a hit with children, they fail entirely to represent traditional aspects of British culture, unless you count the camera lenses as representative of England's omnipresent CCTV cameras.