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article imageRussia announces 2014 Winter Olympics mascots amid controversy

By Kimberley Pollock     Feb 27, 2011 in Sports
The Russian public have voted for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics mascots and the winners are a snowboarding snow leopard, figure skating bunny and a slightly dorky polar bear.
The nationwide campaign to find a mascot for the 2014 Olympics started almost six months ago on September 1, 2010. The finalists were selected from 24,000-plus submissions.
The campaign culminated with a 115-minute nationally televised show on Russia's largest broadcaster, Channel One, during which the viewers could vote by phone for their favourite mascots. The final decision was announced late Saturday by Sochi organizing committee head Dmitry Chernyshenko.
The snow leopard received the most votes and was heavily endorsed by Vladimir Putin who said he is "big, strong, fast and beautiful". USA Today reports: In a three-minute computer-animated clip giving the leopard's ‘back story,’ he swaggers with a self-confidence not unlike Putin's own projection of machismo, and is shown trying to protect a village from an avalanche. Then he undergoes a regime of balance and strength exercises reminiscent of Putin's affection for Asian martial arts.
There was some controversy around the final nine candidates put to the vote with the hot favourite Ded Moroz, a folky Russian Santa Claus, dropped at the last minute. The Moscow Times reports that officials were concerned that Russia would have lost the copyright of Ded Moroz to the International Olympic Committee had it won.
Yahoo Sports reports that not everyone believes the dropping of Ded Moroz was coincidental with allegations of vote rigging by Russian political analyst Dimitry Oreshkin. Oreshkin believes there may have been some voting irregularities in the telephone voting system that led to the leopard's victory and he is also trying to connect this to Putin’s support of the Leopard.
In further controversy the designer of the 1980 Summer Olympic mascot, Viktor Chizhikov has claimed the 2014 bear is a direct copy of his 1980 creation, Mishka (or Misha). He is quoted as saying on radio, “This polar bear, everything is taken from mine, the eyes, nose, mouth, smile … I don't like being robbed."
The controversy may or may not be real but what is most sad is the snow leopard has long been hunted out of the Caucasus region where Sochi lies. In a nationally televised meeting with students hours before the mascot vote, Putin said “If the Olympic project restores at least one segment of nature that was lost due to human activities, it will be symbolic" reports USA Today .
A snow leopard (uncia uncia).
A snow leopard (uncia uncia).
Photo taken 2005 by Bernard Landgraf
More about Winter olympics 2014, russia winter olympics, Russia, Mascots, Sochi Mascots
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