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Vancouver 2010 Oympics Mascots Unveiled

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My very first blog post was about the inappropriate choice of the Inuit Inukshuk as logo of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Now, the Vancouver Olympic Committee (Vanoc) has unveiled the Olympic Mascots … and I am intrigued. The three mascots represent a variety of symbols of British Columbia — or in the words of the Vancouver Province newspaper, the mascots represent “a bunch of things.” (They’re, perhaps, a “mashup” of symbols.)

There’s Sumi, with a Salish name: “Sumi is an animal spirit who lives in the mountains of British Columbia. Like many Canadians, Sumi’s background is drawn from many places. He wears the hat of the orca whale, flies with the wings of the mighty thunderbird and runs on the strong furry legs of the black bear.”

And Quatchi: “Quatchi is a young sasquatch who comes from the mysterious forests of Canada. Quatchi is shy, but loves to explore new places and meet new friends. Although Quatchi loves all winter sports, he’s especially fond of hockey. He dreams of becoming a world-famous goalie.”

And finally, Miga: “Miga is a young sea bear who lives in the ocean with her family pod, out past Vancouver Island near Tofino, British Columbia. Sea bears are part killer whale and part bear. Miga is part Kermode bear, a rare white bear that only lives in British Columbia.”

A fourth mascot of sorts, a marmot, is also a distinctive symbol of British Columbia.

The reaction to the mascots is mixed. Callers and emailers to CKNW radio in Vancouver — and now letters to the Vancouver Sun — complain that the mascots are too cartoonish, look too much like anime, and imply Asian connections by making the mascots look Asian. Others note that they are cute and that they will generate a lot of revenue through merchandise sales. The mascots are marketed towards children who will, presumably, love them.

My sense is that while the Inukshuk was a misrepresentation of Vancouver and British Columbia, the initial reaction of some is that these mascots do not represent British Columbia at all. That conclusion is based on the sentiments that the mascots don’t “look” right; they don’t look British Columbian or Canadian. There is a disconnect between the descriptions (the mascot mythology) and the visual effect. That said, a tremendous amount of work has gone into creating mascots that bring together a lot of symbols which British Columbians hoped might end up as mascots. The Spirit Bear and the Marmot lead that list.

Any thoughts from designers?

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2 Comments

  1. jams wrote:

    I’m a graphic designer based in Vancouver and was interested to see the new mascots. I was very disappointed by the Inukshuk mark, as I feel it doesn’t represent Vancouver, Whistler, nor even BC.

    I was fully expecting to feel further shame for the 2010 mascot. But, I’m surprised to say I actually like the new mascots a lot. They are a simple design but deceptively complex. The style of the three characters is a little trendy, but smart enough I expect to stand the test of time.

    I can see how some people would respond that the design looks ‘Asian’, but I feel that’s wrong. It’s is a bit simplistic and maybe a even a bit racist. I don’t feel they look Asian at all. It’s a global world now – and these are a global style, that I feel is very ‘Vancouver’.

    I like how the mascots are based on local mythology. I hope that the characters remain respectful to the origins of the tales and to the cultures that created them. It’s an opportunity for people, both BCers and others from around the world to learn and reconnect with the First Nations.

    The company that designed them is called Meomi. Meomi is based in Vancouver and LA. They’ve done lots of high qualtiy design for some large companies and social organisations. Their style is clean, colourful, polished and, very solid.

    As well, I learned that the GDC (Society of Graphic Designers of Canada) negotiated with VANOC to make sure that this design was a professional project with appropriate compensation. These things are often spec (volunteer/free) competitions. So it’s also really great that an ethical job was done by VANOC to select a qualified design team.

    All in all, good job by all. I look forward to seeing these characters develop and just hope that it’s done respectfully. Maybe I’m just happy we wont be seeing the Inukshuk as the ice dancing icon.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 1:02 am | Permalink
  2. Terrific insight, jams. Thank you very much for your long comment. I am particularly taken by your reaction to the ‘Asian’ sentiments that I heard repeatedly yesterday. The response that that iconography is not specifically Asian — and that Vancouver is a world city — is quite appropriate.

    I too like the local mythology that is being built around the mascots. My 3 year old watched the Vanoc video three times last night and was fascinated by the story and the characters. He’s hooked and knows the mascots by name already. I hope the stories of these characters are developed further over the next two years.

    And, yes, no dancing Inukshuks please!

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 7:11 am | Permalink