Mascots for Vancouver 2010 Olympics based on native mythology

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The three main mascot characters.
The 2010 Olympic logo.

The mascots of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia were just announced. Based on mythological characters, they are Miga, Quatchi and Sumi.

Miga, a sea bear who lives in the ocean with her family pod near Tofino, and Quatchi, a young sasquatch, represent the Olympics, while Sumi represents the Paralympics that follow afterward.

A sea bear is a First Nations creature, part killer whale, part Kermode spirit bear. While illustrated as being taller than the other characters, the mascot costume of Quatchi is the same height as the other two characters.

The third mascot, Sumi, an animal-guardian spirit, is a Thunderbird that wears the hat of an orca. Sumi will be the mascot of the Paralympics.

In 2004, the Times Colonist suggested a marmot might be a good mascot, except for their winter hibernation. The organizers still chose one, named Mukmuk, as their "virtual only" counterpart.

After the Olympic logo design was leaked the day before the 2005 announcement, organizers were extremely tight lipped until today's news conference at a Surrey school. They apparently didn't do any development on the characters on internet-enabled computers, to ensure the images or information wouldn't slip out.

The characters were designed by the Vancouver and Los Angeles-based Meomi Design. Their characters have been used as part of iGoogle, a customizable homepage option from Google, as well as Electronic Arts, Girls Inc., Time Out Magazine, Cyworld, Nick Jr., Bang-on Clothing, and CBC4Kids.

The Vancouver organizers have a CDN$46-million merchandising program; previous Olympics have made as much as $100 million from mascot-related products.

René Fasel, Chairman of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Coordination Commission commented that "The IOC welcomes these imaginative new additions to the Olympic Family as they take their place on the world stage today - a symbol of the Games and of Canada. We know that when Olympians, Paralympians and visitors from around the globe arrive in British Columbia at Games time, they will fall under the spell of these captivating characters."

The characters first appearance will be at a Bay store in the Lower Mainland; HBC is a major sponsor of the Games. They will then make their way to schools, take a break through the Christmas season, and fly to Ottawa for the Winterlude festival.

Response to designs

Many respondents on the forums complained that the characters were poorly designed, and objected to the anime influence. One early commenter posted: "these mascots do represent BC very well... someone must have been smoking A LOT of BC bud when they created these things. Maybe the dealer was that marmot that no one can see."

One poster suggests the Miga character is inaccurate: "Family pods are residential (not transients or offshore!) who prefer sheltered water." According to the poster, they are "rarely seen" on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where Tofino is.

One forum poster took offense to the characters: "As a person ... of full First Nations descent I want to say that these mascots are offensive."

Some felt that they were a nice change of pace, from the "regular run-of-the-mill Canadiana that has been recycled over and over again. Vancouver is a new city for new things and fresh faces, a place for experimentation... I think we need to remember that these characters are for the kids and for fun. What kind of a statement would trotting out another red and white beaver and moose make? That we are imaginative with new ideas? They'll grow on us."

Earlier logo design a dud say some

Native offense to the Vancouver Olympic mascots would not be unheard of.

While the Olympic logo was applauded by various First Nations and Inuit leaders, including the Nunavut premier, one criticized the image for the Games as looking like the video game character Pac Man. Local leaders complained it didn't represent their cultures, but the culture of the far north; interestingly the logo designer was of sure Haida ancestry.

Nunavut Commissioner Peter Irniq complained that traditional inuksuit (inuksuk) never had a head, legs, or arms. Irniq says that the logo resembles an inunguat, which is a much more recent invention made by non-Inuit people in Nunavut.

Roughly 1600 designs were submitted. Similarly, the mascot design process was open to all, but there was no word yet on numbers of entrants.

The British Columbian chapter of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada took issue with the "token" amount of money paid to the winner, compared to the work done and the fact the images were those of VANOC in perpetuity, with no usage fees paid. VANOC later approached the Society, to set minimum standards for the design.