Olympic mascots, ranked
Mascots are a special, yet often overlooked, component of the Olympics.
Since 1968, a cute creature has been designed for each of the games and plastered all over merchandise. In the grand internet tradition of ranking things, it’s only fitting that we examine the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most beloved Olympic mascots and see how they stack up.
25. Izzy: Atlanta 1996
Izzy is here for one reason and one reason only: to party. Though he was apparently selected by a group of children, Izzy looks more like he belongs in the halls of a frat house.
24. Magique: Albertville 1992
Magique could be a whole lot worse, but he could also be a whole lot better. For the most part, any mascot that’s not explicitly an animal tends to look incredibly creepy, and nothing exemplifies that so much as Magique’s little flesh-colored head popping out from his star-shaped body.
23. Schneeman: Innsbruck 1976
In German, Schneeman translates to “snowman,” but Olaf’s less put-together counterpart looks less like a “snowman” and more like a “possessed snowball.” The oddly humanoid hands and soulless black eyes really complete the look.
22. Wenlock: London 2012
I’m still not sure what Wenlock is supposed to be, even after reading the IOC’s description of him as being “made from one of the last drops of steel used to build the Olympic Stadium in London.” Wenlock looks less like a fun mascot and more like he wants to be our new overlord.
Out of the pairs of childlike creatures on this list, Haakon and Kristin are definitely the most realistic, which honestly makes them all the more haunting. These little children look like they belong in a Stephen King movie and they really, really want to play…
Their design would be much better if they weren’t so yellow. From a distance, they resemble sentient bananas. Up close, the truth is more terrifying. And in giant form, these fellas straight up look like they’re going to hunt you down.
19. Schuss: Grenoble 1968
Schuss gets major points for being the OG mascot. That being said, his design is still a little on the weirdly terrifying end. Though he has an endearingly wholesome quality that lands him higher up on the list.
I was originally inclined to put these guys pretty close to the top, because they look very cute when rendered in 2D. But after doing more research, I found their true 3D forms, which are basically nightmare fuel. Sorry, guys.
17. Roni: Lake Placid 1980
Roni is a raccoon decked out in ski gear. There’s really not much else to be said for him. There’s nothing about his design that is especially scary, but there’s nothing about it that stands out either. Good on you, Roni.
16. Vučko: Sarajevo 1984
Vučko looks like he could be on a box of cereal, screaming at small children, or chasing an annoying bird across a desert landscape. He’s not though, he just looks like every other cartoon attempt to make wolves or coyotes more friendly and approachable (because stealing cereal from children and hunting roadrunners is cute.)
15. Sam: Los Angeles 1984
There’s nothing technically wrong with Sam, except that he’s the most generic American mascot design you could come up with. He’s an American bald eagle wearing an American hat with an American bow tie, because lest we forget, he is an American mascot.
The Canadian equivalent of Sam features two bears (for Canada!) decked out in frontier wear. Hidy and Howdy rank higher than Sam because bears are objectively cuddlier than eagles. They have all the friendliness that we associate with Canadians, coupled with the reminder that Canada is damn cold.
13. Misha: Moscow 1980
When you think Russia, you think bear. Misha is one such bear. His design is very bear. The most bear. There is nothing lacking about Misha. He simply is bear. Misha ranks above Hidy and Howdy, though, because his costume attire is just a cool belt and not an over-the-top ensemble.
There’s nothing wrong with this trio, except that they’re the most generic Australian animals we could’ve come up with: a platypus, a kookaburra and a — well, I guess the echidna’s cool. They get a leg up over the other generic animal mascots because Australian animals are more interesting by default.
Neve and Gliz show us how to do humanoid-duo without making it too creepy. They are still a little creepy, but because they’re so cartoonish, they’re far off from falling into the eerie “Uncanny Valley.“
More commonly known as the “Snowlets,” these little birdies have all the perks of an appealing design: round shape, bright colors, big eyes. It’s the weird smile underneath the beak that bumps them down, but they’re still precious little darlings.
A bear, hare, and coyote could cross the line into stereotypical, but there’s a deeper choice behind this selection. Each animal in this trio is heavily featured in local Native American stories and each wears a necklace with a petroglyph (rock engraving) in the style of the ancient people of the area, the Anasazis and the Fremonts. So even though the choice seems basic, they get points for a cooler meaning.
8. Hodori: Seoul 1988
Strong, dignified Hodori represents Korea without being obvious about it. Unlike 2018’s mascot, Hodori lacks an element of cuteness, but he still shines with positivity and a can-do attitude. He wears a sangmo, a traditional Korean hat, to honor his roots.
7. Cobi: Barcelona 1992
Cobi’s design was met with mixed reviews when he was first unveiled. Considering he’s supposed to be a Pyrenean mountain dog and this design does not exactly scream “Pyrenean mountain dog,” I can see where the confusion came from. But his dynamic Cubist-inspired design really sets Cobi apart from the other mascots, without compromising his cuddliness factor.
This mascot quintet sparkles with cuteness and with symbolism. Each of the five represents a different traditional Chinese element and a different wish: prosperity, happiness, health, luck, and passion for sport. It’s a traditional approach that combines with the modern Olympic creed, giving these cute mascots some depth.
5. Amik: Montreal 1976
Sturdy, yet minimalist, Amik is a mascot you can depend on. It’s a beaver, which is very obviously Canadian, but Amik’s design is sophisticated enough to transcend geography. With Amik they took the obvious choice and turning it into something timeless.
Vincinius’ bright colors radiate positivity and sunshine, much like the aesthetics of the city he represents. He’s not one animal, however. Instead he is a Frankenstein-esque combination of different Brazilian creatures. This is also supposed to be a reflection on the cultural melting pot that is Brazil, which adds a nice deeper meaning. But he’s also just very cute.
3. Soohoorang: Pyeongchang 2018
This year’s mascot is adorable and also very appropriate for the region’s weather. Soohoorang has a delightfully blocky design, but it doesn’t compromise his cuddly appeal. And honestly — I love his little eyebrows. He’s not the first mascot with eyebrows, of course, but there’s something about his strong brow that really ups the cuteness to winning levels.
2. Waldi: Munich 1972
Waldi exudes elegance and poise. He says Germany, without overstating it. He is svelte and refined, proud of his heritage, but not in your face. The color palette is soft and pleasing to the eye, yet he still gets your attention. Silver medal dog, for sure.
It’s a sasquatch and a sea bear — and they pay homage to the local legends and culture. That combination alone is worthy of the gold, but throw in their huggable design and you get an Olympic mascot duo that’s unique, but not weird; cute, but not predictable; and just absolutely perfect.
If you want to dive even deeper into mascot history, a full list of them can be found on the Olympic website.