2014 Olympics Mascots

The 2014 Sochi Olympics have ended as of February 23. The Rio Olympics will be held in 2016; read about where to buy Olympics tickets for the upcoming games.

The 2014 Olympics mascots for the Games to be held in Sochi Russia have been unveiled! Olympic mascots over the years have inspired everything from impassioned fandom, to accusations of plagiarism, corruption, and downright creepiness, such as the one-eyed mascots unveiled for London 2012. The Sochi Olympics Mascots have garnered their share of controversy, though they are at least somewhat cute, unlike several other Olympic mascots in the past. The cartoon snow leopard, polar bear, and hare were chosen from a final selection of 10 characters (whittled down from 24,000 entries), which were then voted upon by the Russian public after they were unveiled on television. More than 1 million votes were cast in the selection process.

Unfortunately the race for the front-runners to fill the coveted role of the mascots for the 2014 Olympics was marred by some controversy. The early favorite to win, a Russian folkloric character known as the Russian Santa Claus, Ded Moroz (whose name translates literally to Grandfather Frost ) dropped out early in the race due to fears that the beloved Russian character would become an intellectual property of the International Olympics Committee.

Then, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proclaimed that the sporty, snowboarding snow leopard was his personal favorite. The snow leopard jumped ahead, suspiciously to some, in the polls. Some prominent political analysts accused the Prime Minister of rigging the polls so that the snow leopard, which shares Putin's affinity for martial arts, would win a spot with the Sochi Olympics mascots. The snow leopard is fit and fast-talking, with a good deal of bravado and self-confidence. He is an apt symbol for Russia's environmental concerns, as the species has been hunted out of existence in the Sochi area.

The final controversy came when the creator of the bear mascot of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow accused creators of the 2014 polar bear mascot of plagiarizing his design. The chubby white polar bear wears a blue scarf, while the 1980 teddy bear was brown and wore a belt with an Olympic rings buckle. However, the creator of the 1980 bear claims that the eyes, nose, mouth and smile of the polar bear are the same as those of his creation. In addition, the polar bear has come under fire from politicians for being too similar to the symbol of the ruling political party, United Russia. Nevertheless, the plump white bear is likely to be a favorite with children and will inspire plenty of cuddly polar bear merchandise.

The hare is the only one of the 2014 Olympics mascots that has remained free of scandal thus far. The hare is a sweet female character who will wear figure skates for the 2014 Games, reminding the world of Russia's past figure-skating glory.

The Sochi Olympics mascots will play a major part in bringing in millions of dollars in merchandising, licensing and copyright fees. If you're planning to travel to Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Games, don't forget to bring home a plush snow leopard, a polar bear-emblazoned hat, and several hare key chains to distribute to all your friends.

Image: Sochi 2014 Winter Games (flickr)

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