When the doll-like Fuwa mascots for this year’s Summer Olympics in Beijing were unveiled in 2005, parents everywhere had to breathe a sigh of relief. While just about any symbol connected to an Olympics in communist China is going to draw controversy, at least these figures wouldn’t give the world’s children four years worth of nightmares.
Several mascots over the years have been pleasing to the eye, but many more have been ugly, confusing and downright creepy. The mascot choices have been so strange over the years that Waldi, the rainbow-shaded dachshund who represented the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, seems almost conservative by comparison.
Below are our picks for the five best and five worst Olympic Games mascots of all time. The choices are based purely on looks (politics were not taken into account).
The Best …
1. Misha (1980 Summer Olympics, Moscow)
The United States missed out on more than Olympic glory when they led the boycott of the 1980 games. They also didn’t get to meet the best mascot of all time. Misha looked like a classic Teddy bear, more likely to give a big hug than maul you. His rainbow belt and giant gold Olympic rings buckle looked like something that wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka might wear. Misha never defected, but he was proof that the Russians loved their children, too.
The Worst …
2. Athena and Phevos (2004 Summer Games, Athens)
Starting in the year 2004, artists seemed to abandon altogether the concept of creating something pleasing to children, and went instead for nightmare-inducing themes instead. Athena and Phevos were mumu-wearing no-necked flipper-armed deformities whose feet were so gout-ridden that they were forced to go barefoot. They were supposed to look like ancient dolls, but many Greeks found the figures stereotyping and degrading. A huge high-profile mascot failure.