Here’s why Olympians are awarded stuffed tigers in Pyeongchang
After training all your life to become the most powerful athletes in the world, Olympic medalists are given… a stuffed tiger.
It might seem a bit anticlimactic to viewers, but the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics claim they have a good reason to be handing out plushies in place of medals.
According to the International Olympic Committee, athletes who place in the top three receive the stuffed tiger immediately after their event, and later receive their medal during the nightly ceremony held at the aptly named Medal Plaza.
This move is typical for the Winter Olympics, but viewers might not recognize it because of its omission at the lengthier Summer Olympics, where it would be too difficult to host nightly medal ceremonies for all of its many events.
Before the games began, the IOC explained that, “instead of flowers, medalist at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 will be given a doll of the Games’ mascot Soohorang.”
If you’re really into the Winter Olympics, you can buy your own Soohorang doll online for about $50.
Each Soohorang presented to the medalists is adorned with a gold, silver, or bronze hat and a paper flower called an uhsahwa, which is “a paper flower that was bestowed to those who passed national exams during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910),” according to the Games’ official website. It’s a clever way to keep the flower tradition alive while imbuing it with significance for the host country.
The tradition of presenting flowers to victors ended during the 2016 Rio Olympics as part of a larger mission to limit the environmental damage from the games. Although the idea that flowers are the key to curbing environmental waste at the Olympics is a bit misleading, considering the massive structures left empty after just a few days of use.
At least the tiger is cute!