So, Russia selected the mascots for the Winter Olympics that will take place in the Russian city of Sochi in 2014. Here they are:
The Polar Bear:
The Hare (Zayka):
The mascots drew criticisms from all over the world. First, in a hypocritical act of “democracy for export”, Russia decided to leave the choice of mascots to the public, through both direct and online voting. But things quickly went wrong when the early favorite, Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz), Russian version of Santa Claus, was removed from the voting when the voting committee realized that, if Grandfather Frost is selected as the official mascot, it will become property of the International Olympic Committee after the Olympics, according to the rules – which would be a bummer since Ded Moroz is already the symbol of Russian winter and the main Russian holiday of New Year.
Next, the voting was influenced by the support of the Leopard expressed by prime minister Putin the day before the final vote. After that, it would have been plain embarrassing if the people did not agree with Putin (that would suggest that – horrors – maybe there is some free will left among Russians after all!), so the voting was doomed. Even Medvedev alleged that the voting was not entirely fair. Adding to the controversy was the fact that results of phone voting (or whatever type of voting they had at TV Channel One) significantly differed from those on the Internet.
Finally, the appearance of the mascots clearly leaves much to be desired. Zayka has already been compared to a prostitute – not an entirely groundless comparison, I think. And, of course, the artist who created the Olympic Bear for the Moscow Olympics 1980 already complained that the Polar Bear 2014 has been plagiarized from his creation:
A wide variety of designers voiced a complaint that the 2014 mascots do not look professionally-made, which is understandable, since they were created by an undisclosed group of “professional designers” based on amateur drawings submitted by ordinary people on the Internet. Sadly, best suggestions have been overlooked by the people who were in charge of selecting mascot candidates. For example, this Internet favorite has been ignored for the obvious reason of being painfully truthful:
Stakasha – a Hero of Russia:
Where Stakasha is an affectionate diminutive variation of the Russian word for “glass”, which symbolizes, of course, Russian all-penetrating love for alcohol.
None of this is surprising though, because Sochi 2014 has been a pure travesty since the very beginning. Starting with the very place where the Games will occur – the southern resort city of Sochi. As opposition leader Boris Nemtsov justly sarcastically noted, Putin managed to find one of the very few places in Russia where these is no natural show, and decided to turn it into a Winter Olympics site. Then environmental concerns, corruption accusations, and safety concerns came piling up. Classic modern Russia.